It’s early, but with 18 percent of precincts reporting, it appears unlikely that the campaign of South Carolina’s Nikki Haley ends tonight. She leads, 43.1 percent to Rep. Gresham Barrett’s 25.4 percent; state attorney general Henry McMaster has 18.2 percent and Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer is in last place with 13.3 percent. Haley would need 50 percent to avoid a runoff.
UPDATE: At first glance, this is great momentum for Haley. But Gresham Barrett was the clear favorite of the Hilton Head Republicans I addressed on Monday, and as a soon-to-be-departing congressman, he’s not easily painted as a part of the problem in Columbia. With a lifetime ACU rating of 98, it’s hard to point to much about the guy that isn’t solidly conservative, although he took some grief for his TARP vote and defended it during this primary. Haley is running as an insurgent, against an establishment in the state capital that has gotten too comfortable, too complacent, too fond of its own power and ability to distribute favors.
If the South Carolina old-boys-network establishment that loathes Haley throws its weight behind Barrett, that might be enough. The kingmaker in this scenario might end up being Henry McMaster.
ANOTHER UPDATE: There seems to be some confusion on this; according to GreenPapers, Haley needs 50 percent to avoid a runoff.