Who could be better as a Republican vice presidential pick than a young, attractive, up-and-coming rising star who happens to be a woman of color, a mom of young children and the governor of an important Southern state? The GOP is sorely in need of repairing the damage it’s done to itself with the “woman’s vote” by finding a woman for the VP slot. That should have been South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, but she can’t and won’t be the one to help them out with that in 2012.
Haley has been seen as a new Republican star for many years, especially after her 2010 move from the South Carolina state house to the Governor’s office, even though her state is known more for it’s support of white men like Newt Gingrich than it is for being any sort of bastion of opportunity for minorities. In light of her story, many political observers believed she would be right at the top of the VP short-list in 2012.
But that’s never going to happen. Why? One reason — Sarah Palin.
When things were looking uncertain in Haley’s bid to move from being a state representative to the Governor’s office in 2010, Palin came to the rescue with her freshly-minted Mama Grizzly campaign. Haley and other conservative women were happy to jump on that bandwagon two years ago. But Palin and that ‘mama bear protecting her cubs’ meme is no longer the political blessing it once was. It turns out that the shelf life of a Palin endorsement was a short one, and now as the former Alaska Governor tries to stay relevant with speeches to CPAC and guest appearances on the Today Show, a former Palin endorsement could be the kiss of death.
But bad Palin mojo isn’t just about what her status is today with Republicans. The HBO movie Game Change reminded everyone what happens when a campaign’s VP pick isn’t thoroughly vetted. No candidate is perfect, but as a result of what the John McCain campaign didn’t learn about Palin early on, every vice presidential hopeful this year will be vetted like never before. Nothing will be left to chance and the candidate will have to be as pure as the driven snow. And that leaves Haley out.
While she’s denied the rumors that continue to circulate about whether she’s had extramarital affairs, it doesn’t even matter if they’re true. Since it looks like the Republican presidential candidate will be either Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum — both men who wear their faithful family-man bona fides on their sleeves — there is no room in their campaigns for even the slightest chance of a marital scandal for a running mate.
Haley’s biography, Can’t is Not an Option: An American Story, is out this week and the timing was clearly a strategic one to help position herself as a potential vice presidential pick. But that’s all changed thanks to HBO’s somewhat melodramatic reminder about what happened with Palin in 2008.
Obviously there’s more to Haley’s life story than rumors of possible marital infidelities. And whether you agree with her politics, or not (and I don’t) there’s no question that her life is an inspiring one for many people — especially young girls — as someone who had to deal with racial injustice as a part of growing up and found a way to create a successful life and become a political influencer in her own right.
But no matter how inspiring her personal story is, the shadow of Sarah Palin is a long one, and the McCain campaign’s inadequate vetting of Palin, combined with even the possibility of a skeleton in Haley’s closet, will keep her off the GOP ticket in 2012, and probably forever.