It's hard to say at this point what the fallout of an alleged extramarital affair will be for Nikki Haley, but she'll have to see an incredible drop in her support not to get one of the two runoff spots when South Carolina voters go to the polls two weeks from today. A PPP survey conducted Saturday and Sunday, before the news broke, found Haley with a 20 point lead on the GOP field. She was at 39% with Henry McMaster at 18%, Gresham Barrett at 16%, and Andre Bauer at 13% closely matched for that second place spot.
Haley's favorables far outpaced the rest of the field at +34 (47/13). McMaster is next best at +21 (43/22), followed by Barrett at +10 (28/18), and with Bauer bringing up the rear by a wide margin at -23 (26/49).
If Haley does see a decline in her support McMaster may see his position solidify as the second candidate in the runoff. Among people who were planning to vote for Haley over the weekend 29% have a favorable opinion of him compared to 19% who see Bauer and Barrett positively.
Haley's wide lead was remarkably consistent across generic, ideological, and regional lines in the South Carolina electorate. She had a 40-19 lead over McMaster with conservatives and a similarly large 35-17 one with moderates. She was pulling 39% with men and women alike. And she led 41-19 in the Midlands over McMaster, 40-21 in the Low Country over McMaster, and 37-24 over Barrett in the Upstate. Haley clearly had broad support from every important segment of Republican voters, at least until yesterday.
It's too early to count Barrett out- he has more room to grow than any of the other candidates as 54% of voters still don't know enough about him to have formed an opinion. If he is able to significantly bring up his name recognition in the next few weeks and voters like what they see he could certainly slip into the top two. And he has recent precedent to point to where Mark Sanford as a Congressman running against several statewide office holders started back in the polls but caught up at the end.
Despite his very high negatives it's probably too early to count Bauer out either. With the candidates so closely bunched it is conceivable he could make the runoff since he does have some solid base of support. The only way he could possibly win a runoff is if it was against Haley and a bunch more bad stuff came about her. That's a long shot but Bauer came back from the dead during his reelection bid in 2006 so he's shown the ability to do it before. One thing's for sure- Democrats would love to see Bauer as the nominee as there's no doubt he provides their best chance of winning in the fall.
It's going to be interesting to see how this race develops in the final two weeks.
Full results here