(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
With Jim DeMint leaving the Senate to become president of The Heritage Foundation, all eyes will now turn to South Carolina governor Nikki Haley. Haley will appoint an interim senator who will serve in DeMint’s stead until 2014, when a statewide election will be held for the seat.
As Reid Wilson reports in National Journal, a long list of Palmetto State political insiders will vie for the appointment. Names like Mick Mulvaney, Henry McMaster, David Wilkins, and Nathan Ballentine may not be well known nationally, but they are important figures in South Carolina politics who could very well end up replacing DeMint.
There are some nationally known figures who are certain to draw Haley’s consideration as well. Here are 5 high-profile Republicans who could be picked by Haley — or mount a 2014 challenge if they are passed over:
Scott, a rising star who serves as U.S. Representative for South Carolina’s 1st congressional district, is widely considered to be the favorite to be appointed to the seat. Appointing the right-wing Scott would appease DeMint’s Tea Party supporters, and picking an African-American for the job would be a public relations victory for the racially challenged Republican Party.
Additionally, sending Scott to the Senate would remove a potential problem for Haley; Scott is said to covet the governorship, and may be tempted to challenge the unpopular Haley in a primary in 2014.
Rep. Joe Wilson, who is best known for shouting “you lie!” at President Obama during the 2009 State of the Union address, would be a popular choice on the right — where Wilson enjoys folk-hero status due to his outburst. Furthermore, his hyper-partisan brand of politics would seamlessly continue DeMint’s legacy.
Wilson’s son, South Carolina attorney general Alan Wilson, could also be a dark-horse choice.
Sanford, who served two terms as governor before a highly publicized disappearance and extramarital affair torpedoed his political career, has next to no shot of being appointed to DeMint’s seat. He may seek the office on his own, however; in an interview that certainly pleased comedians everywhere, when asked about a 2014 run, Sanford told The Wall Street Journal “It’s not a ‘no,’ but it’s not a ‘yes.'”
As unlikely as it sounds, Sanford could actually be a formidable candidate; after all, despite his embarrassing fall from grace, he left office in 2011 with a 55 percent approval rating — higher than Haley’s rating today.
Like Sanford, Colbert won’t be appointed — but the comedian is certain to get involved in the 2014 race, either as a candidate or through his Super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. On Thursday night’s Colbert Report, Colbert started a Twitter campaign to pressure Haley to appoint him:
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|Jim DeMint’s Resignation|
If none of these candidates appeal to Haley, she could always do what Rod Blagojevic famously threatened and appoint herself to the seat. The move would be politically risky, however; self-appointed senators have a terrible record when they eventually have to face the voters.