The Overrated Endorsement

This morning on Fox and Friends, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley endorsed Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination ahead of his weekend visit to the state:

As an aside, it’s telling that the Fox hosts joke about offering the endorsement to Jon Huntsman; it’s a sign of how much he doesn’t appeal to Republican primary voters, despite his conservative record.

It’s easy to play up Haley’s endorsement as a game changer in the South Carolina primary, especially given her Tea Party credentials. “It doesn’t hurt to have it[Haley’s endorsement], and it can help build momentum,” says LaDonna Riggs, chair of the Spartanburg County Republican Party, “For people who like him and who would want to vote for him, it lends some credence.”

On the other hand, Haley is among the most unpopular governors in the country, with an approval rating of 34.6 percent among all South Carolinians, and a 52.5 percent one among Republicans, an awful low in a state dominated by the party. Her tenure in the Palmetto State has been marked by a whole host of ethics scandals—including accusations of pay-for-play in staffing state agencies—and she’s made her fair share of enemies with the South Carolina Republican establishment. To wit, John Rainey, a longtime Republican fundraiser in the state, called her “the most corrupt person to occupy the governor’s mansion since Reconstruction.”

In all likelihood, Haley’s endorsement won’t mean much for Romney’s chances in South Carolina. Not only does it do little to address the glaring weakness of his ideological inconsistency, but given the extent to which South Carolina Republicans have genuinely conservative options for the nominee, it’s hard to imagine that they’ll flock to the former governor from Massachusetts.