Nikki Haley’s succession problem

at 02:34 PM ET, 04/04/2012

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley insists she will not be the Republican vice presidential nominee this year, going so far as to argue that she would turn down the job if it were offered to her.

But the ship may have sailed on that offer a few weeks back when her lieutenant governor resigned in the face of an indictment.
Crowd members listen as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) discusses a plan to bring meaningful tax relief to South Carolina families and businesses during a stop in Garden City, S.C., last month. (AP Photo/The Sun News, Steve Jessmore)

No, the episode wasn’t politically damaging to Haley; the now-ex-lieutenant governor, Ken Ard, was elected separately from her.

But it does raise a troubling succession issue for her as it relates to the vice presidential sweepstakes.

In the wake of Ard’s resignation, state Senate Pro Tem Glenn McConnell became lieutenant governor. That means he would be in line to replace Haley if she were to become the GOP’s vice presidential nominee and the GOP ticket were to win.

This is a problem for several reasons:

1. Haley and McConnell don’t get along, and she would effectively be handing her job to someone who she has clashed with regularly. That may not be a deal-breaker, but it’s a factor.

2. McConnell would be the rare governor who was not elected statewide. Again, not necessarily a deal-breaker, but it’s hardly ideal, either.

3. McConnell is perhaps best-known nationally as a Confederate history buff who was photographed in 2010 wearing Confederate general garb and standing next to two African-American attendees who appeared to be dressed as slaves.

McConnell didn’t apologize for dressing as a Confederate general, and he’s still a popular politician in South Carolina (where the state Senate president is arguably more powerful than the governor).

Despite those three strikes, McConnell’s advisers scoff at the idea that any of it will impact Haley’s vice presidential chances.

“I very seriously doubt GOP leaders would factor in Glenn McConnell when deciding the best running mate to help Mitt Romney take the White House,” said Wesley Donehue, an Internet consultant for McConnell.

But even if it’s not a big deal in the Palmetto State, it could create a headache for the national Republican Party to have one of its governors all over the web dressed as a Confederate general. That’s not exactly the forward-looking Republican Party that GOP strategists want to present to the public.

We’ve been skeptical for a while that Haley will be a top contender for the vice presidential nomination, but the lieutenant governor fiasco back in her home state seems to make her an even more improbable pick.

 
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