Down and flirty in South Carolina

Year after year, election after election, South Carolina politics delivers the goods -- if you like watching a combination of mud wrestling and demolition auto racing. This time around, of course, the all eyes are on the race for governor and on Republican Nikki Haley. The question of the day: How many people can leap into the media and accuse her of adultery without providing any concrete evidence?

The Washington Post put this slam-fest on A1 the other day, including this pitch perfect -- for the genre -- quote about the allegations:

Haley has vehemently denied each claim. ... She said that if any [evidence] surfaced after she was elected governor, she would resign.

"I don't know what they served at the annual Silver Elephant Dinner for Republicans," said Dick Harpootlian, a former state Democratic Party chairman, "but it must've been a combination of some hallucinogenic and Viagra in the punch, because they're rutting like bull elephants."

Lovely. But as anyone knows, much of the hot action (so to speak) in South Carolina politics, especially on the Republican side of the aisle, takes place in church pews and the debates revolve around cultural and religious issues. That's why the Nikki adultery wars are so important.

Thus, the following passage in the Post report is especially important:

From the Bible-thumping Upcountry to the breezy beaches, Palmetto State Republicans have become transfixed by allegations in a campaign that has devolved into perhaps the nastiest brawl in a generation. Haley has fended off unsubstantiated claims from two political operatives that she had extramarital affairs with them. She has swatted away remarks from a state senator who called her a "raghead." And Haley, every bit as scrappy as she is steely, has been running circles around her opponents -- all while propped up in stiletto heels.

The other candidates have bigger names and longer resumes, but Haley, the only woman among them, built a sizable lead by making sport of busting the old-boy fraternity that she says dominates, even corrupts, South Carolina politics.

"When you turn around and threaten their power and you threaten their money, they turn around and push back," Haley, a fast-talking and polished campaigner, told a crowd here on Saturday night. "But what they don't understand is I have a strong faith, I have a strong spine, and I have a strong husband that puts on a military uniform every day."

Now, what does the story tell us about this controversial woman's "strong faith," since faith facts are crucial in any GOP race in the Sunbelt, but especially in a state like South Carolina?

That one reference is it. Period.

Friends and neighbors, that just isn't gonna cut it when politicos start throwing around words like "raghead" in the public square. Facts matter.

As it turns out, Haley's faith is rather interesting and kind of controversial. Consider this passage from a Politics Daily report on this subject:

Haley, a state representative, was born in South Carolina to Sikh immigrants from India. Sikhism, which is now the fifth-largest religion in the world, originated in 15th-century India, in the Punjab region. Like many Eastern religions, it stresses a philosophical and meditative approach to religious practice and does not promote the idea of a personal God.

Haley converted to Christianity when she was 24 -- she is a Methodist -- but as CBN's David Brody shows in a detailed accounting of Haley's religious makeover, until recently she stressed her Sikh roots and even the fact that she still attended both a Methodist church and a Sikh temple.

By all means, click on over to that Brody report, which has all kinds of interesting, you know, fact-based, journalistic information. And the Post report? If you think that religion is an important force in politics and culture in South Carolina, you can just scan the text for a juicy quote or two and then go elsewhere for your information.

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