Last night, when it was all over, I was struck by two things: How much better Vincent Sheheen’s concession speech was than any speech I heard during the campaign, and how much worse Nikki’s was.
As I said on the air last night, that “victory” speech was so… low… energy. The people in the studio laughed, saying, “It’s after midnight!” So what? I wasn’t tired (I didn’t hit the sack until about 3, and then only after a couple of beers). She shouldn’t have been, either. She should have been PUMPED! The crowd that had had the patience to wait for her (the folks in the WIS studio were puzzled she made the world wait for her so long; I told them to get used to it, because Nikki will have no more use for the people of SC going forward, as she continues to court national media) ALSO should have been pumped. But they sounded like an average group of supporters listening to an average, mid-campaign speech.
Maybe she was saving her energy to be on the Today show today. (Here we go again, folks. More of the same of what we got with Mark Sanford, Mr. FoxNews.)
As I urged people on TV last night — go to that clip I posted on the blog of her speech the day Sarah Palin endorsed her. Where was THAT enthusiasm? It’s like she had this finite supply, and it was just… enough… to carry her BARELY over the finish line in a remarkably close victory for a Republican in 2010.
As for Vincent, when he said that line about how he and his supporters “wished with all your might to take this state in a new direction,” it resonated so that I thought, “Where was THAT during the election?” Sure, he talked about not wanting more of what had under Sanford and such; he made the point — but he never said it in a way that rang out. He didn’t say it with that kind of passion.
It’s so OBVIOUS that that should have been his theme. Instead, we had the complete and utter absurdity of Nikki Haley running as a change agent. It’s so very clear that in electing Nikki Haley, the voters chose the course most likely to lead to more of the malaise that we’ve experience in recent years.
But hey, woulda coulda shoulda.
I just raise the point now to kick off a discussion: Is there something Vincent Sheheen could have done that he didn’t that would have put him over the top? Or did he come so close to winning, in the worst possible year to run as a Republican, because he ran the perfect campaign?
I mean, he came SO close. It was so evident that Nikki was the voters’ least favorite statewide Republican (yes, Mick Zais got a smaller percentage, but there were several “third party” candidates; Frank Holleman still got fewer votes than Vincent). I look at it this way: Mark Hammond sort of stands as the generic Republican. Nobody knows who he is or what he does, so he serves as a sort of laboratory specimen of what a Republican should have expected to get on Nov. 2, 2010, given the prevailing political winds. He got 62 percent of the vote.
Even Rich Eckstrom — and this is truly remarkable given his baggage, and the witheringly negative campaign that Robert Barber ran against him — got 58 percent.
So Nikki’s measly 51.4 percent, in the one race with the highest profile, is indicative to me of the degree to which voters either liked Vincent, or didn’t like her.
So the question remains: Could Vincent have won with a better campaign, or did he do as well as he did — ALMOST pulling off what would have been a miracle in this election year — because his campaign was so good?