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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Big Night For the Right in SC

As I expected, the cluster of organizations and interests that represent the most conservative wing of the increasingly very conservative Republican Party had some real fun last night in South Carolina’s runoff elections.
Nikki Haley, the Mark Sanford protege who had staked out the “most conservative” territory in her gubernatorial race long before anything was said about her sex life or ethnicity, won the runoff over congressman Gresham Barrett by a two-to-one margin, essentially winning everywhere other than a few counties in Barrett’s upstate base. Similarly, another Sanford protege with a can’t-outconservative-me rep, state legislator Tim Scott, beat Charleston County Councilmember Paul Thurmond by better than two-to-one for an open congressional seat.
I’ve written enough about Haley over the past few weeks; suffice it to say that she won this race the moment her old staffer, blogger Will Folks, accused her of marital infidelity in a way that failed to convince much of anybody but made the entire campaign All About Nikki. And it was especially appropriate that Sarah Palin endorsed Haley just before the Folks furor began; the Haley saga was a pitch-perfect projection of Palin’s own persecution complex–you know, the Good Old Boys and the liberal lamestream media trying to smear a brave Mama Grizzly for telling the simple right-wing truth.
Scott’s victory was equally interesting, and perhaps an even bigger deal for the Republican Right, which will have an African-American spokesman in Congress for the first time since J.C. Watts retired. The symbolism of an African-American defeating the son of Strom Thurmond within shouting distance of Fort Sumter is obviously very striking. But it’s not as though Scott’s win repudiated any aspect of Thurmond’s legacy other than the blatant racism he abandoned by the 1970s; Scott was himself co-chairman of ol’ Strom’s last Senate campaign.
The third great event for South Carolina conservatives was the absolutely humiliating 71-29 defeat of U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis by Tea Party vehicle Trey Gowdy. This result will serve as an enduring reminder to GOP elected officials that The Movement will find someone to run against them if they stray from orthodoxy. Inglis’ fatal act of sacrilege was probably telling fist-shaking protestors at a town hall meeting to stop paying attention to Glenn Beck.
South Carolina has always been a special place for the more radical variety of conservatives. They certainly seemed to have the whole state wired last night.

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