South Carolina Republican gubernatorial candidate Gresham Barrett’s new “Shake Up Columbia” ad has certainly made waves in the blogosphere. Among the more talked about elements is a line in which a drill sergeant (now a reoccurring character in Barrett’s ads) refers to the South Carolinian as “a Christian man who won’t embarrass us.” But it's doubtful that the provocative appeal to religion and gender will help close the massive gap -- measured at 34 points in a poll released today -- between Barrett and fellow Republican Nikki Haley in the June 22 runoff.
“It seems unlikely, unless some new scandal breaks, with definitive evidence regarding Haley, that Barrett could somehow make up the remaining support he would need to overtake her and actually win the primary," University of South Carolina political science professor David Darmofal said.
In Tuesday's preliminary vote, Haley topped a four-way GOP field but finished just shy of an outright majority, which would have made her the nominee on the spot. Barrett finished a very distant second, nearly 30 points behind her. Haley has been hit by allegations that she engaged in mutliple extramarital affairs.
Darnofal noted that “it is not unusual for candidates in the South to use religion to distinguish themselves."
“The distinction in this new ad is that he is saying that he is a Christian family man who won’t embarrass us. That would seem to be pointing to some past event," he said.
Of course, there are several possible "past events" that the ad might be referring to: Haley affair allegations; the well-documented infidelity of South Carolina’s outgoing governor, Mark Sanford (whose allies are strongly backing Haley); or possibly Haley's childhood years as a Sikh, or maybe even a combination of all of the above.