South Carolina Gov. Nikki R. Haley will appoint Sen. Jim DeMint's successor. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Gov. Nikki R. Haley’s 2014 re-election bid is expected to weigh heavily on whom she appoints to succeed Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican insiders told Roll Call Tuesday afternoon.
Haley is a rising star in national Republican circles and a tea party favorite. But at home, the first-term governor has struggled politically, fighting with Republicans in the Legislature and others in the party while enjoying lackluster support from independent voters. Haley appears safe from a primary challenge, but some polls have suggested that she could be vulnerable in the general election, despite the state’s strong conservative bent.
The Senate appointment could help Haley address some of these challenges, GOP operatives based in South Carolina and others with strong ties to the state said she is likely to take full advantage of the opportunity as she considers from a narrowed pool of five potential candidates. CNN first reported who was on the short list Tuesday, and each candidate carries strengths and weaknesses.
Rep. Trey Gowdy: Gowdy has tea party and conservative bona fides. He is not perceived to be personally close to Haley. Per one knowledgeable South Carolina-based GOP operative, Gowdy is the “unlikely choice for Haley, but for a future U.S. Senate race, a very good candidate.” Another source added that the Gowdy mention on the list might have as much to do with poking Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., as pushing Gowdy. Haley and Mulvaney have an adversarial relationship.