A big question for Democratic Sen. Vincent Sheheen's campaign for governor is will he be able to match the fundraising from Republican rival Nikki Haley?
Danny Kanner, communications director for the Democratic Governor's Association, spoke with The Buzz on Wednesday to try to answer that question. Kanner is in South Carolina for two days, meeting with Sheheen and other party leaders. The DGA spent more than $6 million in the recent gubernatorial election in Virginia, where Democrat Terry McAuliffe squeaked out a close win over Republican Ken Cuccinelli -- a win many pundits credit to McAulliffe outspending Cuccinelli. By comparison, the DGA spent a few thousand dollars in New Jersey, where Republican Chris Christie won a landslide victory.
Last week, DGA president Gov. Peter Shumlin listed the races the DGA was targeting -- and Haley was not on the list. Kanner said South Carolina is a priority for the DGA, but he would not commit yet to spending money here.
Below is an edited transcript of our conversation:
BUZZ: Will the DGA spend any money in South Carolina to help Sheheen?
KANNER: We generally don’t make spending decisions this early – we are a year out – and even if we did, I wouldn't tell you what they were. But I will say that this is the first place I’ve been to since Virginia, since the election two weeks ago (when Democrat Terry McAuliffe defeated Republican Ken Cuccinelli for governor), and we’re working closely with the campaign and with the state party and the candidate and we view Nikki Haley as someone, again because of her ineffectiveness, her incompetence and her pretty clear view that she is not accountable to anyone, we think she is incredibly vulnerable.
BUZZ: Will Sen. Sheheen's stance on gay marriage (he defines it as between a man and a woman) be a problem for the DGA?
KANNER: This is Vincent Sheheen’s race and we support candidates who share the policy priorities and values of their state as that candidate best sees those carried out. That’s his view. The DGA does not have a view on that issue Our view is we need to elect more Democratic governors. And we believe Vincent Sheheen can win.
We do not have an ideological litmus test in any way. The Republican governors all have to be for the same stuff. They all have to be for tax cuts for the wealthy and major corporations paid for by gutting education and raising middle class taxes, they all have to be anti Obama on every single issue, they all have to be anti women’s health and on and on the list to various extremes. We don’t have that litmus test within the party. We are actually, it’s so cliché at this point, we are the big tent party. We have Democratic governors who are pro choice, pro life, pro gun, anti gun, pro marriage, anti marriage equality, we don’t’ have a litmus test like that. For the Democratic Governor’s Association as an organization, we just want to win.
BUZZ: What will the S.C. Democratic Party have to do to convince you guys you need to spend significant resources here?
KANNER: I think that if Vincent Sheheen goes around this state as he has been talking about the things that matter in people’s lives -- schools, roads, jobs -- and continues to point out like he said in 2010 that Nikki Haley would make an ineffective governor and she has proven grossly incompetent, that he will be very close. He will be within striking distance by the time this race turns down the stretch. And I think there will be a whole lot of people that want to help Vincent Sheheen over the finish line.
BUZZ: You said within striking distance, is there a certain number you would like to see? Three points? Five points?
KANNER: No, I mean look, again he fell short by 4 points last time (editors note: 4.5 points). And I think that her approval numbers suggest that she can’t get very high. I think this is going to be a close race. I’m not going to put a number on it, but it’s going to be close.
FOR THE RECORD: Haley campaign spokesman Rob Godfrey called Kanner's trip to South Carolina a "damage control tour" and said the DGA's money is "money is far, far better spent elsewhere."
FURTHER READING: Click here to read a memo from Jon Lerner, Gov. Nikki Haley's adviser, on why he says Haley will cruise to an easy victory.