A look back at GOP runoff results

Lessons on Nikki Haley, Henry Brown, and the ghost of Strom Thurmond

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After contentious runoff campaigns, the South Carolina Republican Party finally picked its candidates for the November ballot. Sorry, Alvin Greene, but Jim DeMint is still on there. Here is what we've learned:

Nikki Haley is the chosen one: Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, both 2012 presidential contenders, were on the ground campaigning for Haley and bringing big bucks from out of state to help the relative unknown state legislator from Lexington win the GOP primary. And the USA Today included a front page photo announcing Haley's win on the day after the runoff.

If you think the talk of Haley's ultimate victory is premature, you haven't seen anything yet. She has already got a cushy spot on the VP shortlist, and Romney and Palin will likely spend a good deal of 2011 sparring over her endorsement. In a CNN interview less than 24 hours after Haley clinched the nomination for governor, they asked her about President Barack Obama's decision to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan. Hmm. A national defense question for a member of the Education and Public Works Committee of the S.C. House of Representatives.

Tim Scott will do if Haley falls: Haley still has a lot of baggage; two embarrassing affair claims are looming overhead, and runoff opponent Gresham Barrett drew a helpful blueprint for Democrat Vincent Sheheen when it comes time to grill Haley on her inconsistent voting record. And then there's the more than $40,000 in consulting money from Wilbur Smith and Associates, a Columbia engineering firm that told CNN it was paying for her "contacts." That information wasn't made public until hours before polls opened.

Haley herself said earlier in the campaign that the "reform" movement in South Carolina failed by pinning all of its hope on Mark Sanford. So its no surprise that reform-minded Republicans are hedging their bets this time around. State Rep. Tim Scott isn't quite on the same trajectory as Haley, but he has stressed the same far-right values on the stump. He was rewarded with a sizeable win in the runoff and a lot of out-of-state support for his campaign. The pairing of Haley and Scott led an NBC political blogger to wonder if S.C. was the "political phoenix."

Henry Brown is an ass: Incumbent Berkeley County Supervisor Dan Davis had little to worry about in his re-election bid. That is, until Congressman Henry Brown decided that he wasn't quite ready to retire. Frequently referring to himself as the "Republican Workhorse," Brown surprised the rural county when he announced his plans to put off heading to the pasture for a little bit longer to challenge his old friend Davis.

It was neck and neck on Primary Day, but Davis cleaned Brown's clock in the runoff. And the longtime politician was not a good sport about it.

"I guess the people want to be fooled," Brown said after the results came in. "And if they like being fooled, I guess they have an opportunity at that."

But Brown has shown his lack of tact before. In a debate with Democratic challenger Linda Ketner in 2004, the congressman suggested she owned oil stock. When Ketner told him she had sold those stocks, he responded, "Good for you. You're all pure again."

The nation is clueless about S.C.: You could easily weed out the national bloggers and journalists who didn't really have a pulse on S.C. politics when they accused Democrats of orchestrating the affair allegations against Haley.

As soon as the runoff card was confirmed, the national story turned to the 1st Congressional District and the race between state Rep. Tim Scott and Charleston County Councilman Paul Thurmond. Wait, I meant "the Black Congressional candidate" and "the son of one-time segregationist Strom Thurmond." Yes, it is embarrassing that Republicans still get excited about sending a black person to Congress, but you would think that Paul Thurmond lives on a Confederate compound somewhere.

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