The crowd loved it. “She’s so exciting!” said Sheri Irwin, 47, an unemployed wedding photographer from Charleston who views immigration reform as a key issue in her choice of nominee. “If we don’t do something, we’re going to lose this country. Michele knows what she’s talking about. She doesn’t need notes. She doesn’t need a teleprompter.”
An adviser to Scott said after the town hall that it would be a mistake to read too much into Haley’s appearance, since she has made clear that she won’t endorse anyone until all the candidates have had a chance to visit South Carolina and make their cases to Republican voters. The governor happened to be in Charleston for another event, so it was not a difficult appearance to arrange, the Scott adviser said.
Still, Haley adviser Tim Pearson said that Haley “was thrilled” to stop by when Scott asked her to do so. He also said that Bachmann stayed with Haley at the governor’s mansion this year — but he noted that Haley has invited other presidential contenders to do so, as well, and Bachmann is the first to take the governor up on the offer.
“She thinks we have a great slate,” Pearson said, “and will endorse someone towards the end of the year. She hasn’t made a decision as to who yet.”
Haley is a rare Republican politician who excites tea party activists with her limited-government stands as well as party leaders who admire her political skill — and her cachet not only as a woman but as an Indian American in a party long criticized for its poor outreach to minorities.
Scott, too, has gained a high profile as one of the few tea party-supporting African American politicians in the country. Both politicians have been able to criticize Obama without attracting accusations of racism that have popped up elsewhere within the tea party, and Haley in particular has used her status as the daughter of immigrants to speak forcefully about the need to stanch the flow of illegal immigrants into the country.
Scott hosted Huntsman at his one previous presidential town hall, and he said Thursday that he expects at least two more to be announced soon. He took an indirect shot at Romney, though, when a reporter asked him whether the candidate would struggle to win in South Carolina with so few trips here.
“I think you just answered your own question,” Scott said.