Hicks Palmetto Politics: Is Haley in for a shock after touc…

Nikki Haley may soon learn there’s a downside to being a nominal top-tier presidential candidate.

That is, all her Republican opponents might soon focus their attacks on her.

When the GOP hopefuls gather Sept. 27 for their second debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute north of Los Angeles, some of them no doubt will be eager to remind viewers what Haley said after the first one.

The former South Carolina governor criticized her opponents for failing to talk seriously about the need to cut entitlements — in particular, Social Security.

Riding high on the momentum from her debate performance, Haley told Bloomberg News the retirement age for full Social Security benefits should “reflect life expectancy” and that “65 is way too low.”

Yeah, she went there.

That used to be called touching the third rail of American politics — which means no viable candidate should even address such a thing, no matter how true it may be. Not if they hope to remain viable.

It was a head-scratcher, because the report didn’t outline her full platform. Never mind that anyone born after 1960 (i.e., most of the workforce) already has to work until they’re 67 to receive full benefits, it wasn’t exactly Reagan’s “Morning in America.”

“There might be candidates in debate prep right now working on a way to bring that up,” says College of Charleston political scientist Gibbs Knotts. “That’s not something you normally say when you’re in a competitive primary. Telling people a lot of stuff they don’t want to hear is not a way to get votes.”

But, Knotts notes, it’s “refreshing” to hear a major party candidate say that. Unless, of course, you work for the Haley campaign … and hope to remain employed throughout the 2024 primaries.

Even Donald Trump, who violated most norms of politics in his first campaign, prudently told voters exactly what they wanted to hear about entitlements: That he would never, ever touch their Social Security.

Haley has always had a good political compass, and probably doesn’t need a room full of good advisors to tell her you don’t win elections by alienating middle-aged and senior citizens — aka the most consistent voting bloc in the country

Of course, the governor doesn’t want to change the rules for people anywhere near retirement now. As CNN reported in March, Haley proposed changing the retirement age for people now in their 20s … and perhaps limiting benefits for wealthier Americans.

It’s a detailed plan. But since she’s talking about messing with entitlements, she’d better be ready to explain and defend it.

Otherwise, Haley could be taking early retirement — at least from this campaign.

Could a runoff run off more voters?

Voters will be lining up to not vote in the state Senate District 42 Democratic primary runoff this week, just like they lined up to not vote two weeks ago.

The Sept. 5 primary saw a turnout of roughly 7 percent in a district that’s home to more than 50,000 registered voters across Charleston and Dorchester counties. Election officials fear a turnout of less than 5 percent is possible — even likely — on Tuesday, Sept. 19.

The race to replace state Sen. Marlon Kimpson has come down to state Reps. Wendell Gilliard and Deon Tedder. The winner basically takes the seat in this heavily Democratic district.

As Dems are largely powerless in South Carolina, the election has little consequence. But there are two interesting things to watch.

This has come down to a struggle between the local Democratic Party and Gilliard’s civil-rights era, street-level politicking. Gilliard came close to winning outright the first time around, and Democrats perpetually underestimate him.

The results will be instructive for future candidates, particularly in the upcoming municipal elections for North Charleston (which covers much of the Senate district).

Perhaps more importantly: Election officials are using this race, and its abysmal turnout, in their argument to hold all South Carolina special elections on a single day every year. They hope a regular schedule will increase turnout in special elections … and save them money and manpower.

The legislation to make that change currently resides in the state Senate, which means either Gilliard or Tedder will get a vote on it. As will a number of other senators who won their seats in low-turnout, low visibility special elections.

Which doesn’t bode well for the legislation’s odds.

Here’s a story…

He’s a United States senator and a presidential candidate, but now Tim Scott has really arrived … at his Jan Brady moment.

The Washington Post recently published a story examining Scott’s private life, which is part of the deal when running for national elective office. In the piece, headlined “Why do we care whether Republican Tim Scott has a girlfriend?” the reporter notes the campaign wouldn’t make the senator’s significant other available, even for an off-the-record chat.

So, the reporter noted, they couldn’t verify that she exists.

Ouch. Since then, the stories have kept coming and the senator’s campaign has struggled to deal with them.

Scott must feel like Jan, the Brady Bunch’s chronically maligned middle child, when she claimed to have a boyfriend named “George,” (glances at a glass of water), “George … Glass.”

For what it’s worth, when we see Scott out and about around here, he’s most often dining with family, including his mom.

Which is pretty smart politics — she got a standing ovation at his last Charleston town hall.

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