Joining Rep. Trey Gowdy and Sen. Tim Scott as Palmetto State heavyweights who've swung their support behind Sen. Marco Rubio's presidential campaign, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley completed the trifecta last evening at a rally in Chapin. "This is serious. This matters," Haley told the crowd. In backing Rubio, Haley praised the rest of the GOP field, saying, "we have good people running for president." But ultimately, she concluded, "my job was to find the person I thought could do it the best." Watch her explain why she believes that person is Marco Rubio:
It's remarkable to think that just a few weeks ago, Haley was pointedly noting that she disagreed with Rubio on immigration, even twisting the knife with the word "amnesty." Yet here we are today. Like Gowdy and Scott before her, this is a great 'get' for the Rubio campaign. Haley has a strong approval rating in the state, having won a blowout re-election victory in 2014. And in the aftermath of her handling of the horrible Charleston shooting and the confederate flag controversy, her support among South Carolina Republicans is a sky-high 81 percent -- and even higher with self-described Tea Party members. The Washington Post notes that Haley's decision to hop off the fence isn't just a boon to Rubio, but also another blow to Jeb Bush, who'd heavily courted her endorsement. The bolded pull-quote says it all:
Haley is much more popular among Republicans today than she was then, and this is a very different race. South Carolina in 2016 is about the establishment finding their guy -- and Haley's voice matters, a lot, in that conversation. Don't take it from me. Here's what Jeb, who badly wanted Haley's endorsement, told NBC's Peter Alexander on Tuesday about the governor: "She is the probably the most meaningful endorsement if there is, if she is going to give an endorsement it would be the most powerful meaningful one in the state." Oomph.
As of last evening, when Rubio secured and rolled out his alliance with Haley, the RCP polling average in South Carolina showed Donald Trump easily leading with 34.5 percent support, with Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio within a fraction of a point of each other (their combined support equals Trump's). Cruz, who reportedly pushed hard for Haley's nod, also received good news this week, earning the support of respected conservative economist and Townhall columnist Thomas Sowell. He's also spent the last 12-plus hours touting the results of a new NBC/WSJ national poll that shows him surging ahead of Donald Trump. The billionaire dismissed the survey, suggesting that the pollster must not like him, or something. I'll leave you with an observation I made on Twitter that caught fire yesterday after the Haley news broke:
Young Indian-American female governor joins young black Senator in endorsing young Latino Senator for president in Deep South state. #GOP— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) February 17, 2016
Regardless of whom you support (as I explained earlier in the week, I'm undecided myself) that image is a powerful one for the Republican Party. Not because conservatives should pick candidates based on gender or race, which is Left's game. Just the opposite, in fact: It shows that in a deep red state like South Carolina, where the vast majority of GOP voters are white, they've seen fit to elect two people of color with humble roots to statewide office because of their ideas and the content of their character. That is a meaningful embrace of Dr. King's dream, and a repudiation of Democrats' endless, demagogic, identity politics-driven narrative that the GOP is an exclusive club for old, rich, white guys.