Just Don't Get in the Car With Him ...
Talk about a bad week for political consultant Rod Shealy, South Carolina's resident "Dirty Trickster" and the father of negative campaigning here in the Palmetto State.
Not only is Shealy's top client, Lt. Gov Andre Bauer (pictured left), the undisputed laughing stock of the South Carolina political community after his latest run-ins with the State Highway Patrol, the week kicked off with Shealy's number two client, gubernatorial candidate Oscar Lovelace, getting played like a fiddle at a recent Lace House dinner with the man he wants to replace.
What should have been a continuation of the "Why won't you debate me, governor?" story Shealy has been pimping with some success to the SC press corps for the past month instead ended up as a feel-good puff piece for Gov. Mark Sanford.
By dressing up three State Senators as waiters, designating their four adorable boys as "referees," and coming up with creative, taxpayer-themed names for various hors d'ouerves and entrees, the governor and his wife, First Lady Jenny Sanford, expertly managed the fluke appearance by Lovelace and other anti-Sanford Democrats at the Lace House Sunday evening. In doing so, they turned a potentially bad political story for the governor into an amusing and distinctly positive human interest piece.
Then yesterday morning came the shocking disclosure of Bauer's recent 101-mph "SC 2, passing through" in Chester County and 78-mph "running late, as usual" warning citation in Laurens County, two incidents that probably wouldn't have been quite as big a deal had Bauer not:
a) Been involved in previous public run-ins with law enforcement
b) Used his police radio and "SC 2" designation to successfully avoid receiving a ticket and,
c) Lied to reporters when he was first asked about the incidents
Prior to Bauer's latest Lieutenant Gubernatorial implosion, most polls showed the Bauer-Mike Campbell race as pretty much neck-and-neck, with Campbell holding a slight lead just outside of the +/-error margins in the last poll FITS saw.
Of course that's likely to change significantly the next time a poll gets put into the field.
Bauer's problem isn't what's being said in the Echo Chamber under the State House dome or on political blogsites such as this one, Devinely Southern, the Laurin Line or elsewhere. We all know the State House lobby and our political blogs are "inside baseball."
Bauer's problem is what's being said at water coolers, barber chairs, barstools and dinner tables all across the state. Everywhere you turn, real people who don't live inside the political bubble are saying to themselves and their friends, "You know, if I got caught driving 101 miles per hour ..."
Invariably, that sentence doesn't end with the person receiving a warning citation or a friendly wave-off.
Bauer, whose judgment was already suspect for previous reckless acts on the road, has now established a pattern of suspect behavior - to which the equally unflattering terms "above the law" and "dishonest" can now be added. Plus, as he had yet to formally file for re-election, the situation turns his official filing today or tomorrow into a media circus that will only keep the negative attention coming.
Capping off - for now, at least - Shealy's "Worst Week Ever" is the announcement of former FBI agent Bill Malinowski as a candidate in the Richland County Council race against hand-picked Shealy client Jim Holcombe. Holcombe, who probably didn't expect to encounter serious opposition, now has a real challenge on his hands in the form of a credible, down-to-earth candidate backed by many of the same folks who organized the overwhelming defeat of Lexington-Richland School District 5's November bond referendum. Holcombe, on the other hand, is married to one of the top saleswomen at the Mungo Company, which was the driving political force in support of the referendum.
Shealy has experienced bad weeks before - like when he was found guilty of election fraud after secretly hiring an unemployed black fisherman to run against his sister - but most observers agree this week probably takes the cake.
All we at FITS can say to that is you reap what you sow, Big Guy. Enjoy it.