That’s because DeMint’s departure will create a once-in-a-generation opportunity: the governor’s office and both U.S. Senate seats, all three of South Carolina’s brass rings, will be on the ballot at once.
The first step in that long campaign will be for Gov. Nikki Haley (R) to appoint someone to fill DeMint’s seat — either a placeholder who would step aside in 2014, or a real live candidate, who would then have a leg up on rivals.
Here in the capital, at least the first stage of the scrum was polite.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) said in a phone interview that both he and Rep. Tim Scott (R) had notified Haley that they wanted to be considered for the job.
Mulvaney and Scott are close friends who don’t want to campaign against each other. But Mulvaney said this didn’t count: “It’s not really a race, is it?”
“We’ve both made Nikki aware of the fact that we’d be interested in the position,” Mulvaney said. “Tim’s been a little more public” about that intention. “But it’s not the same as running against each other.”
Haley herself issued a statement Friday, saying she would make her decision “quickly” and would not engineer a way to take the seat herself.
“Appointing a new member of the U.S. Senate is a solemn duty, and I take this responsibility with utmost seriousness,” Haley said. “I will make this decision in a manner that is thoughtful and dignified, but also quickly.” She continued: “I will appoint a person who has the same philosophy of government that Jim DeMint and I share.”
“The governor will not run for Senate in 2014,” an aide said. “She loves the job she has.” He said Haley has no public events scheduled Friday.
So far, DeMint’s open seat has also attracted interest from a farcical candidate — TV’s fake pundit Stephen Colbert (R?), a South Carolina native who asked viewers to badger Haley on Twitter, asking her to appoint him.
And it drew moderate interest from a moderately farcical candidate: former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford (R), who became a national punch line in 2009 when he sneaked away from his state to meet a paramour in Buenos Aires. Aides claimed at first that Sanford had been hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Sanford told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday that former supporters had suggested he reenter politics and seek the seat himself. “It’s not a ‘no,’ but it’s not a ‘yes,’ ” Sanford told the Journal.
On Thursday, some people here said DeMint had privately supported Scott, a first-term legislator from the state’s coast, who has built a national following among conservatives. If Haley appoints Scott, he would make a startling kind of history: the Senate’s only black member would be a Republican, from the state where the Civil War began and where modern politics was dominated by Sen. Strom Thurmond.Later that day, however, another aide said DeMint had no favorites.