The Daily Gamecock

Columbia Tea Party rally hosts Gov. Nikki Haley, Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann

Bachmann, Haley speak on steps of Statehouse

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Gov. Nikki Haley headlined the Columbia Tea Party’s third-annual Tax Day rally at the Statehouse Monday.

Bachmann’s appearance in South Carolina has increased speculation that the Republican congresswoman will seek her party’s presidential nomination in 2012. South Carolina’s primary is the second in the nation and the first in the South, and since 1980 no Republican has ever won the presidency without capturing the South Carolina primary. Political experts have noted that possible Republican presidential candidates — such as current U.S. Ambassador to China John Huntsman, who will give a commencement speech at USC on May 7 — may already be aligning themselves for the contest.

“I think that her whole trip through South Carolina this weekend and her being here for this rally means she’s keeping her options open,” said Robert Oldendick, a USC political science professor. “I don’t think that’s she’s committed herself to running, but if she’s thinking about it, she is doing exactly the type of things a candidate like that would be doing.“

Both Bachmann and Haley, who campaigned for governor on a platform of transparency and accountability, extolled Haley’s passage of a bill that requires lawmakers to vote on the record — a rule that was already largely followed in both houses of the General Assembly. In reference to Haley’s plan to grade legislators based on their support for her agenda, Hal Nichols, the state coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, called out the names of General Assembly members who didn’t vote for the Spending Accountability Act of 2011 and held up papers with “F”s on them.

Holding up an “F” for Democratic Sen. Vincent Sheheen, Nichols criticized Haley’s former gubernatorial competitor for trying to add provisions to the bill, saying, “He wanted to kill it but didn’t have the guts to vote against it.”

The crowd booed most loudly at the mention of Sheheen and Sen. Jake Knotts, the Republican who famously called Haley a “raghead.”

Haley also repeated her intention to pass legislation currently being considered by the General Assembly that would require South Carolina voters to show photo identification at the polls.

“We show photo ID when we buy Sudafed; we show photo ID when we get on an airplane; we need to show photo ID when we go to the polls,” Haley said. “We are not going to let one more year go on without voter ID.”

According to Oldendick, a partisan debate over requiring voter IDs has arisen because most of the 178,000 South Carolina voters who don’t have driver’s licenses or photo IDs from the Department of Motor Vehicles are low-income and likely Democratic voters. The law would require the state to issue IDs to those who don’t have them. Oldendick said it would take around $460,000 to institute the law and $260,000 yearly to administrate.

Haley also described the Budget and Control Board, an institution unique to South Carolina that shapes the budget and thus limits the power of the governor, as a “big green ugly monster” that needed to be destroyed. Haley also said she would work to resist being “bullied by the unions” and maintain South Carolina’s status as a right-to-work state, and that her followers “are going to be an equal-opportunity opponent to Obamacare.”

The rally drew the familiar protesters with signs ranging from the clever to the controversial, from “Impeach Obummer” and “O.M.G., Obama Must Go” to “End the FED.” A variety of conservative groups were represented, including a booth for the South Carolina Fair Tax supporters and the John Birch Society.