Governor Nikki Haley and Congressman Tim Scott— both Republicans— set up shop near the Democratic National Convention Tuesday as part of the GOP’s effort to counteract the DNC’s message. However, several Democratic members of the South Carolina House questioned why the governor was out of the state for the second week in a row.
The Republicans came to Charlotte Tuesday for a news conference for the GOP’s organized response team,”Obama Isn’t Working.” Haley largely focused on Obama’s comments to a Colorado TV station Tuesday. When asked what grade he would give himself, the President answered “incomplete,” stating there was still more work needed to repair the economy.
“I have a 10-year-old and a 14-year-old. I know if, on their report card they came home with an incomplete, they fail,” Haley told reporters in a studio at the NASCAR Plaza building Tuesday, “So he basically said, ‘I didn’t get the job done.'”
AUDIO: Gov. Haley and Rep. Scott in Charlotte (5:44)
But a pair of Democratic legislators held their own press conference in Columbia an hour later, criticizing the governor for spending her time in Charlotte.
State Rep. James Smith (D-Columbia) said the governor needs to be focused on lowering South Carolina’s unemployment rate. “Being in Charlotte, I think it’s the closest she’s been to her office in two weeks,” he told reporters in a press conference held only steps away from the governor’s offices in the Statehouse.
State Rep. Mia Butler-Garrick (D-Columbia) said Haley appeared more focused on promoting herself than running the state. “Nikki Haley isn’t campaigning for Mitt Romney; she’s campaigning for Nikki Haley.”
AUDIO: Reps. Smith & Butler-Garrick (6:04)
According to the governor’s public schedule, she only attended events in Florida last week (although it also notes she made several “economic development calls” and spoke with some agency officials). The governor’s calendar for this week only mentions Tuesday’s event in Charlotte.
In response to our requests, Haley’s spokesman released a statement Tuesday: “Governor Haley understands that replacing the president is one of the best things that can happen for South Carolina’s economy, and she is determined to do what she can to help make that happen. As to how she spends her time, the results of the past two years – pension reform, tort reform, on the record voting, and more than 27,000 announced jobs to name a few – make it very clear how committed she is to governing.””
Smith said he had no problem with the governor attending the Republican convention, but that her appearance in Charlotte was too much. “You have to ask the question, who’s paying for this?” he said, “As far as we can tell, this has been a taxpayer-funded effort and far and beyond the scope from what would be generally accepted.”
The governor’s spokesman Rob Godfrey said Haley’s campaign had paid for the hotels in Tampa. He added the governor had commuted to Charlotte and was not spending the night. In response to a question about security costs, Godfrey responded by email, “She’s the governor. She has security everywhere she goes.”
For his part, Rep. Tim Scott also attacked Obama’s “incomplete” quote, saying he himself had “flunked out” in 9th grade before eventually turning his life around. “I understand an incomplete is a way of avoiding a failing grade,” he told reporters, “When you’re in that situation, you really want something that looks like an incomplete grade.”
“Our president, when asked the question ‘Are we better off?’ gets a failing grade… Four years ago, the unemployment rate in the black community was at 10.7 percent. Today it’s almost 40 percent higher.”