Political Animal


December 07, 2012 10:44 AM Palmetto RINOs

By Ed Kilgore

The drama surrounding Jim DeMint’s sudden resignation from the Senate continues to unfold down in South Cackalacky, where Gov. Nikki Haley must soon appoint an interim Senator to serve until a special election in 2014 (DeMint’s term runs out in 2016).

The only thing we know for sure is that Haley has ruled out any maneuver to get herself appointed to the Senate gig (smart of her, since her perpetually flagging popularity in the state would not be enhanced by a self-aggrandizing step that has very rarely worked out for others who have tried it over the years).

So now more than before, the odds are high that Haley will choose Rep. Tim Scott (whom DeMint himself is reported to prefer), giving the national GOP the symbolic bragging point of an Asian-American woman tapping an African-American man in the state that sent John C. Calhoun and Strom Thurmond to the Senate.

You’d figure that would make local wingnuts in the Palmetto State happy, given Scott’s hard-right political profile (a 92% rating from the Club For Growth, and 96% from the American Conservative Union).

But this is South Carolina. Prominent (and perpetually troublesome) conservative blogger Will Folks—the former Mark Sanford and Nikki Haley staffer made famous in 2010 by his so-far-unsubstantiated claims of having an affair with Haley—is trying to stir up DeMint supporters into a revolt against the putative choice of Scott:

Scott was elected on the strength of support from fiscal conservatives, but has repeatedly bent to the will of the GOP establishment in Washington, D.C. In fact his self-serving vote in support of a “Boeing bailout” proves he’s part of the problem in our nation’s capital … just as his recent endorsement of fiscally liberal S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell shows he’s part of the problem here at home.
DeMint’s legacy of liberty promotion and taxpayer protection in Washington, D.C. has been unrivaled in recent years. Haley needs to honor that legacy by appointing someone who will continue to advance it - not someone who will ask “how high” whenever establishment Republicans in Washington tell him its time to “jump.”

Folks is among those who prefer Rep. Michael Mulvaney (who had already expressed an interest in running for DeMint’s seat if he retired in 2016) or state senator Tom Davis (a former Sanford chief of staff who’s been a leading critic of Lindsay Graham) to Scott. It’s hard to imagine anyone possessing less pull with Haley than Folks, but it is interesting that it’s possible in the funhouse mirror of South Carolina politics for someone to talk about Tim Scott as though he’s some sort of squishy RINO. We’ll hear a lot more of that kind of talk if Haley takes still another path of appointing former SC Attorney General Henry McMaster—who supplied her with a helpful runoff endorsement in 2010 after his own gubernatorial campaign went south—as a “caretaker” Senator, letting conservatives fight it out for the gig in 2014. That is the scenario, BTW, that would most please Lindsay Graham, whom “true” conservatives have been warily circling in hopes of launching a primary challenge to his renomination in 2014.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on December 07, 2012 10:56 AM:

    So, the token Republican Nigrah in SC is insufficiently Conservative?

    He must have once helped an elderly woman across the street - and NOT into oncoming traffic or an open manhole!

    All those years, Mr. Scott, of selling your soul for pieces of pale silver, and how do they treat you?
    Like a Darkie who ain't good enough for 'em!

    "Well, sooprise, sooooooprise, SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOPRISE!!!"

  • CJColucci on December 07, 2012 11:42 AM:

    Too small for a nation, too big for an asylum.

  • Grumpy on December 07, 2012 11:50 AM:

    To NPR's list of self-appointing governors, one could add Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. In her case, the seat was vacated when her father was elected governor, and then Frank Murkowski appointed his daughter as a replacement. While Lisa has been re-elected in her own right (even surviving 2010's primary loss), Frank's reputation never recovered from that, his first decision in office as governor. When running for re-election, he was crushed in the GOP primary by some lady from Wasilla.

    Which has nothing to do with South Carolina.

  • Tom Hilton on December 07, 2012 11:51 AM:

    I'm really enjoying this French Revolution aspect of the GOP meltdown. Yesterday's revolutionaries are tomorrow's RINOs, because there will always be someone further right attacking their purity.

  • Zorro on December 07, 2012 12:01 PM:

    Only in SC does "a 92% rating from the Club For Growth, and 96% from the American Conservative Union" make you a liberal...


  • Jharpjrharpster on December 07, 2012 12:15 PM:

    Not that there is anything wrong with it but I suspect Tim Scott is gay. For several reasons.

  • MuddyLee on December 07, 2012 2:17 PM:

    I think the worst case scenario is for Haley to appoint Mick Mulvaney, a developer with questionable ethics (Edenmoor development) and a devotion to Ayn Rand. He is not fit to be the successor of the Democrat John Spratt, and he is not fit to serve in the Senate - in my incredibly humble and liberal opinion.