Kent Bush: Sordid S.C. governor's race heads to runoff election

Kent Bush

Despite being called a raghead "in jest" by a state senator in an interview and being accused of cheating on her husband, Nikki Haley easily won the Republican gubernatorial primary in South Carolina on Tuesday.

She fell just short of the 50 percent of the vote that would have allowed her to avoid a runoff, so she will be back on the ballot with Rep. Gresham Barrett.

Haley pulled 49 percent of the vote. Barrett managed only 17 percent. But there are a lot of votes available from supporters of the other two candidates. And in this race, anything can happen.

Haley survived what would have been an extinction-level event for many politicians with not one but two men bringing affair allegations against her only days before the primary.

But Haley called their bluff with a promise to resign if anyone could prove her involvement in extramarital activities. Surviving this charge shows how strong a candidate she is. The ringing endorsement and last second robocall from Sarah Palin didn't hurt, either.

But Haley is still tapdancing in the minefield of South Carolina politics.

Think about it: Voters showed Tuesday night that either they don't care that the family-values conservative had one or two affairs or they believe that officials in their state will fabricate such stories to win elections.

I doubt either scenario will make it onto the tourism brochures.

The June 22 runoff could be interesting.

Bet on Harry

Voters in Nevada get to bet legally, and if I were in a casino this morning, I would bet Harry Reid gets re-elected in November.

Closely tied to the worst of President Barack Obama's agenda and a victim of his own claptrap, Reid was poised to become a major casualty in the Battle of 2010.

But the tea party narrative has once again proven that they may be more effective in primaries against the Republican establishment candidates who failed to uphold conservative values than they will be in general elections where Democrats and Independents also have a voice.

Sharron Angle beat former Nevada GOP leader Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian. Lowden led much of the race, but she imploded under the pressure, and Tarkanian -- the son of famed UNLV Basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian -- never mounted a significant charge.

Angle is the most likely Republican candidate to lose to Reid in November. In fact, polls already show them in a dead heat before Reid spends a dime to discredit her.

He has a lot of dimes and there is a lot of discrediting to be done.

Angle is supported by the Nevada and national tea party organizations. That fact alone would open her up to criticism -- which many say is unfair -- that she holds extremist views.

With Angle, the ideals of the tea party are only the beginning.

She is also a supporter of "the oath keepers."

Oath keepers are uniformed soldiers or police officers whose motto is "Not on our watch!"

What won't they allow on their watch? Nazi -style internment camps and the coming dictatorship are two of the best examples of what they won't allow. So they are stockpiling weapons and rehearsing scenarios to defend the constitution against the government.

I can't imagine what could possibly go wrong.

But the surprising thing is that Angle makes no effort to separate herself from this band of merry men. She held a campaign event at one of their clubhouses, and when her husband was interviewed by Talking Points Memo, he said he and his wife support what the organization stands for. He couldn't remember if he and his wife were members, but they're interested.

Angle has also been quoted as worrying that Americans may have to defend themselves "in more Second Amendment ways," which helps paint her as a fringe candidate, at best.

So if you think voters of Nevada will hear the Reid narrative for the next five months and still elect someone with that political platform, head on out to Las Vegas and place your bets.

Reid was all but unemployed a few months ago. But compared to Angle, I think most voters in Nevada will agree that Harry looks pretty good.

Even in a down economy, it is hard to beat an incumbent in any election.

Once Angle's shady positions face the glare of the spotlight, most voters will have a hard time supporting her.

Kent Bush is publisher of the Augusta Gazette in Augusta, Kan. Contact him at