Pollster: Republicans just don't believe Nikki Haley rumors

Scandal? What scandal? Sarah Palin's favorite is 20 points ahead of her nearest rival

Published June 7, 2010 5:05PM (EDT)

Nikki Haley in Columbia on May 14.
Nikki Haley in Columbia on May 14.

It looks like not even two scandalous allegations of extramarital affairs can stop Sarah Palin's candidate, Nikki Haley, in the Republican primary for governor of South Carolina. Haley holds a 20-point lead over Rep. Gresham Barrett one day before the vote.

According to North Carolina-based polling firm Public Policy Polling, Haley has emerged unscathed from recent lascivious rumors  simply because voters don't believe the gossip.

"Only 13 percent of voters believe the allegations levied against her, and 54 percent of people just don't believe the rumors at all," said PPP director Tom Jensen. "The view is, if you can't prove it, we were going to vote for her and we still are," he said.

Many have linked the rumors' genesis to Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, another of Haley's opponents in the upcoming primary. "If anything, this has actually hurt Bauer," said Jenson. "He's in last place with only 12 percent of the vote."

The pollster believes that Haley will come in first place with a good margin tomorrow, but perhaps not the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. "The race will be close in the runoff, when it's just a two-man race between Barrett and Haley, but it's not very often you see someone with a 20-point lead lose in a runoff."

The Tea Party-endorsed Haley may not have the most imposing résumé in the race, but according to Jensen, Republican voters, especially those who love Palin, see her as a change in direction.

"43 percent of voters disprove of the current direction of the GOP, Haley is something new."

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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