June 23rd, 2010
03:51 PM ET
4 years ago

South Carolina GOP stresses unity after divisive primary

Nikki Haley won a contentious GOP runoff in South Carolina Tuesday night, and on Wednesday, the party gathered for a unity rally.
Nikki Haley won a contentious GOP runoff in South Carolina Tuesday night, and on Wednesday, the party gathered for a unity rally.

Columbia, South Carolina (CNN) - The South Carolina GOP, still licking its wounds after a nasty gubernatorial primary that exposed long-standing rifts within the party, gathered in Columbia Wednesday for a "unity rally" to show support for their newly-minted nominee, Nikki Haley.

Haley sailed to victory in Tuesday's primary runoff against Rep. Gresham Barrett by a whopping 30-point margin. But some establishment figures are reluctant to embrace Haley - a devotee of Gov. Mark Sanford's uncompromising fiscally conservative principles - out of fear that she might pursue ideological fights with the legislature instead of forging compromise.

Haley, though, made it clear that that her sweeping win was a validation of her small government message.

"The reason South Carolina is moving in this direction is because all of the people have stood behind the fact that they want the government to understand the value of the dollar," Haley said. "This is the Republican Party that's going to help us get there and get behind that message."

Haley said she received congratulatory phone calls from numerous national figures, including potential presidential candidates like Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour and Bobby Jindal. If she wins in November, Haley's position as governor of a crucial early primary state could make her a potential kingmaker in the presidential nominating process.

GOP chairwoman Karen Floyd was eager to embrace Haley's outsider message, punctuating her remarks with frequent references to reform. She even called this year's slate of Republican candidates "the most reform minded ticket in the history of South Carolina."

"We have heard what South Carolina has said," Floyd told a crowd of activists, county party chairs and state legislators.

Tim Scott, who won his party's nomination in the first Congressional District and is favored to become the first Republican African-American congressman since J.C. Watts retired in 2003, made the trip to Columbia to appear on stage with Haley.

But two central figures from the messy Republican primary, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and his ally, state Sen. Jake Knotts, did not bother to show up at the event. Haley accused Bauer of pushing rumors that she had an extramarital affair, while Knotts infamously called Haley, who is Indian-American, "a raghead."

Bauer's absence went largely unnoticed, and Haley's other two primary opponents, Barrett and Attorney General Henry McMaster, embraced their new standard-bearer.

"I am going to do everything I can within my power in the next few months to ensure that Republican remain in charge, that Nikki Haley is the governor of this great state," Barrett said.

Sanford also attended but did not speak. Still, his appearance elicited a standing ovation from a crowd that included several people who called for his ouster last summer after he left the state to visit his mistress.

Floyd concluded the breakfast meeting with a pivot to the general election, in which Haley will face Democratic nominee Vincent Sheheen.

The GOP chair tried to link Sheheen to Democratic Senate nominee Alvin Greene - who mysteriously won the June 8 primary and faces felony obscenity charges - by repeatedly describing the Democratic ticket as "the Greene-Sheheen Democratic machine."

Carol Fowler, the state Democratic Party chairwoman, called the jibe "a silly gimmick."

"Alvin Greene is irrelevant to South Carolina voters and he is irrelevant to the fall campaign," Fowler told CNN. "They are looking for gimmicks to take attention away from the fact that they have just nominated another Mark Sanford. I don't think people of this state want another four years of what they just lived through."


Filed under: 2010 • South Carolina
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. snow

    Nikki Haley you rock. Mrs Haley will win in November because SC wants smaller government and like the rest of the country will not accept the demorats message of large government and tax and spend economics.

    June 23, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    Translation: "The primary is over so GET BACK TO GOOSE-STEPPIN' YOU FOOLS!"

    June 23, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    Honestly, liberals should just pull out of SC entirely. The founding fathers intended for the states to act, to some degree, as laboratories for experimenting with policy. So be it. Liberals should just pull out of SC entirely and in 10-20 years when SC looks something like East Bumblefrak in [insert name of your favorite third world country here], nonody has an education past 3rd grade, mothers are feeding their babies Enfamil-moonshine-milkshakes and every single person darker than a British albino has fled, we can offer them the opportunity to have liberal candidates again.

    June 23, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  4. Astonished!

    Unless that idiot Knotts appears with Haley and publically apologizes to her in person for calling her a raghead, it is all just GOP PR nonsense.

    June 23, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  5. geecee

    Congratulations, Ms. Haley. I'm a Democrat from another state, but I am glad for you if for no other reason than you must have disappointed that hateful loathesome creature from your state who made the comments about a "raghead in the Governor's Mansion." Make friends with whomever you want, but please exclude him from your circle. Thanks.

    June 23, 2010 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  6. Pragmatic

    Mainstream republicans only "luv" winners ... wondering what Knott is saying now that his "rag" is a crying towel!

    June 23, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  7. Lynda/Minnesota

    Setting aside her lack of qualifications, there is no doubt that Haley will in all probability win her bid as Governor.

    How well she can govern is any one's guess. If Christie and McDonnell are any indication of Tea Party shallowness, South Carolina will pay the price in more ways than one.

    June 23, 2010 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  8. Jo

    South Carolina where you as long as you are a Republican, you can have multiple affairs, leave the state in a bind, scream like a child in Congress and renounce your original to Catholicism. This state has become the Mississippi of the 2000s.

    June 23, 2010 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  9. Freedom

    Go Haley! Go Scott! Go GOP!

    June 23, 2010 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    "Mrs Haley will win in November because SC wants smaller government and like the rest of the country will not accept the demorats message of large government and tax and spend economics."

    Let's make that more accurate:

    "Mrs Haley will win in November because SC wants GOPers in charge because the conservatives have successfully tapped into the inbred confederate hatred for anyone viewed as a yankee elite...which means anyone with a "D" after their name. While conservatives are yammering about smaller government, they don't really believe in it as is evidenced by their behavior when in control, but what they do believe, errantly so, is that they've managed to convince the vast majority of this country to believe them when they promise that they are for smaller government. I'm also still stuck on stupid with respect to Reganomics."

    June 23, 2010 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  11. concerned citizen

    No one can denied that the 2 terms of Covernor Sanford have been a disater for SC, n ow the taliban wing of the republican party with the help of Saint Sarah selectes a Sanford clone that apparently will stop to nothing as long as she reaches her goals, Changing faiths, forgeting to disclosure "consulting fees" and she is the candidate of transparency. She is a good material for the late night comidians but not for a backwards state as SC

    June 23, 2010 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  12. american patriot

    IS She still getting it on with the blogger.

    Ah ha ha ha

    What a bunch of losers.

    The [people of this state are going to get screwed by this woman.

    June 23, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  13. SC typical southerner WASP

    Of course the SC Repubs are talking about a 'Greene-Sheheen ticket.' Repubs are basing whole strategy on their plant, Alvin Greene. Once again it's shady games rather than any attempt at governing.

    Haley claims she'll be for reform, but she was Mark Sanford's choice and protege – and his 8 yrs drove SC to the bottom of every measure of success and quality of life. How can more of the same be considered "reform"? Even Repubs were clamoring for him to resign during his scandal because he had few defenders or admirers.

    Many of my fellow S Carolinians are gullible voters, but it's not the Democrats – none of them will be voting for Alvin Greene. There are plenty of intelligent, articulate African-Americans in SC that we get behind, but this obviously mentally challenged person is not one of them.

    June 23, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |