BUZZ: Is Haley hitting right notes?

September 1, 2013 

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley delivers her speech as she announces her re-election bid outside the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville last year.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com Buy Photo

Gov. Nikki Haley is involved in the details of her political life — even the music used during her appearances.

“Anyone who knows Nikki — or follows her Facebook posts — knows she loves music,” campaign spokesman Rob Godfrey said, “but each governor chose the song to which he came out on stage.”

The Buzz noticed that the Republican governor’s song choices at her re-election kickoff rally in Greenville last Monday had rather, well, Democratic tones.

She arrived on stage to Tom Petty’s “American Girl.”

Petty asked Michele Bachmann ’s GOP presidential campaign to stop using the song in 2011, and the rocker told Rolling Stone that he got chills when President Barack Obama walked onstage to his “I Won’t Back Down” after former President Bill Clinton spoke at last year’s Democratic National Convention.

When her speech ended, Haley walked offstage to another round of “American Girl” that was followed by Fleetwood Mac ’s “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow).”

Yeah, that was Clinton’s anthem.

This is not Haley’s first run-in with artists closely tied to the other side.

Her campaign pulled a web video during her 2010 campaign that included the Black Eyed Peas hit “I Gotta Feeling” that was used without permission. Peas lead man will.i.am was a regular around Charlotte during last year’s DNC, and he performed during the Denver convention in 2008.

Godfrey, whose Twitter avatar is a drawing of John Lennon, responded: “For most people, including Nikki, music isn’t political.”

Going by the numbers

The Buzz has been hearing all the debate over how many people attended Haley’s re-election rally and thinks folks might be missing the point.

Whether the crowd size was what her camp says (roughly 300) or what Democrats claim (less than 100), the real deal was not how many people were willing to fry on a concrete slab in front of a Greenville arena on a hot August afternoon.

Haley got three A-list GOP governors — Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Rick Perry of Texas and Scott Walker of Wisconsin — to come to a fundraiser in Greenville.

“When they agreed (to come for the fundraiser), she decided it was as good an opportunity as any to make it official and announce she’s running for re-election,” Godfrey said.

The fundraiser started at 6 p.m., so the rally was set for 4 p.m. to accommodate the schedules of four state leaders.

Godfrey saw nearly 300 people who “left work early on a Monday to come to the rally and show support for the work Gov. Haley is doing,” while S.C. Democratic Party executive director Amanda Loveday saw a candidate not wanting to sell her vision at a time convenient to draw people.

The Buzz’s upshot is that the Haley campaign got what it wanted: Photos and videos of the governor in front of a two-story-tall American flag sharing the stage with three top GOP governors and a U.S. senator, South Carolina’s Tim Scott. The only numbers that matter come Nov. 4, 2014.

Signature moment

Rob Godfrey’s hobby is collecting autographs, mostly of sports hall of famers. Last week, the Haley spokesman got all the governors at Haley’s rally to sign a baseball to give to Harris Pastides.

Godfrey read in a series in The State that the University of South Carolina president displays baseballs signed by famous non-athletes in his campus office. Whoever thought Elmore Leonard and Bobby Jindal would ever have a home together?

Quiz time

Of the three visiting governors who came to Haley’s rally, guess which one was not wearing cowboy boots? If you picked the one from Texas (loafers), get yourself a Haley for Governor koozie.

Back to the grassroots

Neil Mellen surely is one of the most enthusiastic advocates of the state’s first private-school choice option in South Carolina.

First step to ensuring success? Depoliticize, says Mellen, 33, who recently stepped down as president of the uber-conservative South Carolinians for Responsible Government — the group that lobbied lawmakers successfully for the program — through which nonprofits will offer private-school grants to special-needs students. The state will give a tax credit for donations made for the grants.

A Peace Corps veteran who launched an education foundation for children in Micronesia, Mellen said “there’s nothing political” about his new venture, a nonprofit called Access Opportunity SC, and a website, independented.org, which Mellen envisions as a one-stop shop on information for potential donors, parents and schools.

“The technical work of supporting students, parents and schools . . . is what I like best. There’s a little bit of coordinating and cheerleading that needs to happen, and that’s especially true in the next few months.”

Staff writer Jamie Self contributed

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