In case you missed it, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley endorsed Mitt Romney for president yesterday – just a little more than a month before her state’s first-in-the-south Presidential primary. Will it help Mitt? The National Journal thinks so:
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s endorsement of Mitt Romney gives the ex-Bay State governor a crucial tea party imprimatur in a state that holds a critical Jan. 21 presidential primary. But Haley’s endorsement might be even more helpful by solidifying the perception that Romney’s campaign is on the rebound after a downturn.
Consider where Romney stood at the beginning of the week. Republicans and other critics were hammering him for offering Texas Gov. Rick Perry a $10,000 bet, and national polls showed Gingrich leading the GOP race by double-digits. The news was just as pessimistic in the Palmetto State: Romney trailed the ex-speaker of the House by 20 points there, according to an NBC News-Marist Poll. And on Tuesday, state party Chairman Chad Connelly questioned his commitment to the state.
The outlook for Romney is improving. National polls have shown Gingrich’s standing slipping (from 37 percent to 29 percent in roughly a week, according to Gallup), raising questions of whether Gingrich is following in the footsteps of onetime front-runners Perry, Herman Cain, and Michele Bachmann. Romney also turned in a strong debate performance Thursday night.
Haley’s support puts an exclamation mark on Romney’s revived prospects. He still is in a dogfight against Gingrich — nowhere moreso than in South Carolina, where his organization is still lacking. But Haley is a favorite of many conservative activists and could bolster his chances in the state that has voted for the eventual GOP nominee in every contested primary since 1980.
Maybe, but Haley’s also facing a backlash over her endorsement, if the reactions from conservatives on Facebook and Twitter, and in pundit world are any indication. True, she backed Romney in 2008 and went on to become Governor of the state two years later thanks to a wave of popular support from SC conservatives, but Haley’s not the popular political figure she once was in South Carolina, if this poll is any indication. Not only that, but if there’s one candidate the Tea Party despises the most, it’s Mitt, so her endorsement is not necessarily Mitt’s Golden Ticket to winning SC.
Also consider this: Prime time endorsements from prominent, news-making political figures are not an automatic indicator of a “sure win” – whether the endorser is popular or not. Remember, Ted Kennedy created a stir in Democratic circles when he endorsed the young, politically inexperienced Senator Barack Obama in 2008 over longtime friend and political ally Hillary Clinton. But in spite of the weight Ted Kennedy’s endorsement carried with liberal Democrats in Massachusetts and beyond, Hillary Clinton still won the Massachusetts primary handily.
As to poll numbers for the GOP presidential primary? Newt’s got a double digit lead average over Romney with just four weeks to go. Of course, as we’ve seen many times this year already, it doesn’t take four weeks for a candidate’s campaign to take a nosedive but unless some blockbuster scandal breaks about Newt like it did for Herman Cain, I suspect all the effort in the world from HaleyCo. is not going to get a majority of SC conservatives to vote for Romney. I don’t even think Senator Jim DeMint’s endorsement of Romney, if it were to happen, would make much difference. Southern conservatives are understandably hesitant about supporting a Yankee (heh) for political office – especially one who most realize is a “progressive” in conservative clothing.
As they say, stay tuned …