When the RGA's money started coming in this month, state Democrats declared Haley to be vulnerable because the RGA would not be spending money otherwise at a time when so many other gubernatorial races are contested. Yet the DGA opted against funding any TV ads favoring Sheheen and the DNC, to date, has forked over only $100,000, about 14 percent the RGA's sum.
According to the Greenville News, former state party chair Dick Harpootlian called the amount "absolutely ridiculous," adding that "the DNC is asking us to bring a knife to a gunfight." Meanwhile, former Gov. Jim Hodges (D) said the DNC's contribution is "not substantial" while also reminding the White House about the role South Carolina played in Obama's path to the presidency.
Polling numbers and Haley's fundraising advantage over Sheheen help explain why the DGA is not putting South Carolina on its priority list. Sheheen has never led during the race, though Pollster trendlines show the race narrowing some in October. Most significantly for Democrats, Haley's been under 50 percent in most polls for the last month too. However, Sheheen's been mired mostly in the low 40s during that time and has yet to show a pathway to 50 percent. The DGA claims it's been developing its ground game in the state for the last 21 months and the national media is picking up the emergence of Sheheen, with MSNBC's "First Read" dubbing the contest a "possible sleeper."
National Democrats sitting out the race comes with pros and cons for Sheheen. Without the DNC and DGA, Sheheen can better make the case that his campaign is more grassroots and South Carolina-based than Haley's. His campaign has hammered Haley lately for raising 31 percent of her money out of state while virtually all of Sheheen's latest contributions - 94 percent -- came from in-state donations. That said, money coming in from New York and Chicago is still money she can spend airing TV ads and expanding her get-out-the-vote operations during the last two weeks, even if it attracts negative headlines. Coupled with the RGA's TV blitz, Sheheen is operating at a virtually impossible to overcome disadvantage with the only positive for him being that it helps him consolidate his message. That message, lately, has been all about trustworthiness with a side of jobs.
The bottom line for observers, of course, is whether Sheheen can win. National Democrats appear to be leaving it up to him and the state party while the RGA is treating Haley's race as a firewall of sorts, ensuring its "likely" win with a little extra cash now so it won't have to worry about it during the final week. In any scenario, Sheheen is definitely still the underdog and Haley is definitely still the favorite, and the two are not finished debating yet. If Sheheen can make a late run, look for a last-minute infusion of cash coming in from national sources, which would force the RGA back into the state too. If he can't, national Democratic and GOP committees will focus their resources elsewhere.