Home » South Carolina Natives Nikki Haley and Tim Scott’s Complicated History On Display as They Battle for GOP Nomination
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South Carolina Natives Nikki Haley and Tim Scott’s Complicated History On Display as They Battle for GOP Nomination

Sen. Tim Scott has spent the past few weeks hurling insults at fellow South Carolinian Nikki Haley following a feisty exchange between the two at the second Republican primary debate, exposing a rift between the two South Carolinian candidates with a history that goes back over a decade.

“She drew first blood,” Scott told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto. “She started off by making it personal. I, frankly, did not have a negative comment about her.”

At that Sept. 27 Republican debate, Haley did cast the first stone.

“Twelve years. Where have you been? Where have you been, Tim? Twelve years. We’ve waited, and nothing has happened,” Haley said to Scott during an attack on Congress’ record on spending, which she attempted to tie him to.

A few minutes later, Scott sniped back, referencing a controversy from 2018 surrounding expensive curtains installed at then-U.N. ambassador Haley’s residence in New York, a decision the New York Times reported was made during the Obama administration.

“You got bad information,” she said as Scott talked over her.

“Did you send them back?” he asked her repeatedly.

“Did you send them back? You’re the one that works in Congress,” an exasperated Haley shot back. “They were there before I ever showed up at the residence. You are scrapping.”

Haley was the first to live there, but the Obama administration had decided to purchase the drapes, according to officials who spoke with the New York Times.

While the exchange marked a tense point in the relationship between the two Palmetto State natives, 11 years earlier, it was Haley, the first minority female governor of the state — and one of the first in the country — who tapped then-Rep. Tim Scott to fill former Sen. Jim DeMint’s seat after his retirement.

In doing so, Scott became the first Black senator from the American South since the end of Reconstruction after the Civil War.

At the time, Haley acknowledged the gravity of the appointment, calling it “very important” to her “as a minority female, that Congressman Scott earned this seat.”

“He earned this seat for the person that he is; he earned this seat for the results he has shown; he earned this seat for what I know he’s going to do in making South Carolina and making our country proud,” Haley said.

Back then, both were rising political stars.

Now, over a decade later and both eyeing the Oval Office, their exchange at the debate brought a quietly brewing cold war to a simmering boil.

Attacks since the debate

The back-and-forth at the second debate was perhaps Scott’s most-discussed moment — perhaps not attracting the attention his campaign was hoping for going into the evening.

In the weeks since the debate, his polling has dropped precipitously, hovering just above 2% nationally, according to the most recent 538 modeling. By contrast, Haley has continued to gain ground both with donors and in her overall position among the primary field.

Appearing on “The Daily Show,” Haley burst into laughter when host Charlemagne tha God asked why she hadn’t told Scott to drop out yet.

“Yeah, you want to tell him that? I’ll leave that to you,” she said. “You know, I’m not going to be the one to tell him to get out. I’ll leave that up to you.”

Recently, Haley has downplayed her initial attack against Scott during the debate, calling him “a good senator” when asked at her ballot filing ceremony in Columbia, South Carolina, last month whether she regretted her decision to appoint him to the seat.

“I think he’s been a good senator. I think South Carolina should be proud of the work that he’s done,” Haley said.

For its part, Scott’s campaign recently announced that it will be spending the bulk of its resources in Iowa until the caucus in January. Campaign manager Jennifer DeCasper announced that Scott will be going “all in” to boost his numbers in the Hawkeye State.

In the latest Des Moine Register/NBC/Mediacom poll, despite heavy early ad investments, Scott’s share in the polling has dropped to 7%, 9 points behind Haley, who has moved ahead of Scott to third behind Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“I don’t know why his political people are telling him to attack me. I think that’s a mistake,” Haley told a town hall audience in South Carolina, adding that she’s “not focused on him or any other candidate.”

Scott has repeatedly said that he will not indulge in personal attacks on the campaign trail, but he has deemed Nikki Haley too “moderate.” He’s evoked the fictional character John Rambo to describe how he plans on handling their differences.

“The way we respond is not by being petty and being personal, but helping people understand what is already clear: the moderates are rallying behind her,” he said in a radio interview with hosts Clay Travis and Buck Sexton.

At the Florida Freedom Summit, Scott told the audience that what America needs is a “forward-looking optimistic conservative warrior.”

“She’s leaving conservatism behind on life and social issues and key principles. She is playing in the lane of the Never Trump. It won’t unite our party, though. And we can’t win with a moderate in 2024,” Scott said.

“You think about her initial response to the Palestinian refugees coming to America,” Scott continued. “She thought there was a way for us to vet them. You think about where she stands on the issue of abortion and the issue of life not having a 15-week national limit.”

Haley has not endorsed Scott’s national 15-week ban on abortions, saying any national legislation on the issue is unlikely to pass in a closely divided Congress.

At the third Republican primary debate, Haley dinged Scott on abortion, saying he did not co-sponsor Sen. Lindsey Graham’s 2022 legislation attempting to implement a 15-week ban. Scott, who co-sponsored a similar bill introduced by Graham in 2013, defended his record, contending the attack was “not true.”

On the matter of Palestinian civilians, Haley did tell Jake Tapper that “America has always been sympathetic to the fact that you can separate civilians from terrorists” in response to a question about Flordia Gov. Ron DeSantis’s assertion that all Palestinians were antisemitic.

But Haley’s response has been repeatedly mischaracterized by the DeSantis campaign, and now by Scott, in recent weeks despite the fact that during the same interview, Haley said nothing about resettling Palestinian refugees in the United States. Instead, she called on countries closer to the Gaza Strip to take on the responsibility.

The battle for South Carolina

Haley has also continued to gain ground in the pair’s shared home state.

In October, The Post and Courier, South Carolina’s largest newspaper, ran an editorial saying she was “one GOP candidate [who] can defeat Trump” and giving her its endorsement.

“We call on all the other Republican candidates for president to drop out and support her in a decidedly uphill battle against Donald Trump,” Cindy Ross Scoppe, an editorial writer for the publication, wrote in a piece published the same day.

She continued: “Although Ms. Haley should never be confused with a moderate, she could easily be next year’s choice of independents and traditional Republicans. But that requires the other candidates getting out of the way.”

And just a few weeks prior, George Will, a columnist for The Washington Post, called on Scott and other candidates to drop out of the race and consolidate around Haley.

“Disclosure,” Will’s column read at the top, “The columnist’s wife, Mari Will, an adviser to Republican presidential candidate Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), disagrees with this column.”

Haley is solidly polling in second place in the state, albeit distantly, clocking 22% of the vote as Trump continues to dominate the pack, nabbing 53%, according to the most recent CNN/SSRS poll. She’s followed by DeSantis at 11% and Scott at 6%, a three-point drop from a September Washington Post/Monmouth poll.

The South Carolina Republican Party declined to comment for this story.

University of South Carolina freshman Ella Papazenif, a Haley supporter, told ABC News last month that she thinks the former governor could be a change-maker in American politics.

“I feel like she’d beat well-known people,” she said after hearing Haley speak at the ballot-filling ceremony in Columbia. “So I really liked that she’s running for president. I loved her as governor and love that she’s running for president. I feel like it’s a change in America that we need.”

South Carolina conservative political strategist Dave Wilson told ABC News it is Haley’s momentum and experience that is keeping her in the spotlight.

“Nikki Haley and Tim Scott are taking two very different approaches when it comes to the state. Nikki Haley has consistently been building up an infrastructure of people around her. She says state representatives, she’s got us representatives. She’s got advocates across the state who are out there, building momentum for her. Nikki Haley has consistently shown that momentum begets momentum when it comes to the way that she campaigns.” he said.

“Tim Scott has a strong force. He’s a strong conservative voice. But he doesn’t have the spread of networks across the state like Nikki Haley does,” he added.

Wilson said that Haley’s past experience in her uphill primary battle for the governor’s office in 2010 would give her an edge over Scott.

“Nikki Haley consistently builds momentum behind her. And that has been what you have seen happen with her in this race,” he said. “Tim Scott has strong, steady conservatives. And that strong, steady conservative approach, while good for holding an ongoing position, is not giving him the momentum he needs to be able to gain any level of traction with the voter base.”

Scott indicated before he announced that whatever happens on the campaign trail, the two will still remain friends.

“We were friends before,” he added. “We’ll be friends after.”

Source : ABC