COLUMBIA — Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden would have a great shot at besting Republican Gov. Nikki Haley if the 2010 general election opponents squared off today, according to a new poll released Tuesday.
In a survey of 520 S.C. voters conducted Dec. 7-9, 46 percent of voters told Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling they would vote for Sheheen compared with 44 percent for Haley. Ten percent of voters surveyed were undecided.
Sheheen’s advantage is within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.
Neither Sheheen nor Haley have officially said they will run for governor in 2014, but both are expected to jump into the race next year.
Haley defeated Sheheen by 4 percentage points in 2010.
In a statement, Sheheen said the new poll results are less about him and more about South Carolinians’ distrust in their state government.
“The people of South Carolina are smart enough to know they deserve better than what we have gotten,” he said.
Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey brushed aside the poll results.
“As she has long said, the polls are a sideshow to Gov. Haley,” he said in a statement. “They go up and down, while she stays focused on bringing jobs to South Carolina and fixing a state government badly in need of repair.”
The new survey numbers are the latest in a recent round of poor poll results for Haley, including PPP results released Monday showing Haley with 42 percent job approval to 49 percent disapproval among S.C. voters.
The marks have S.C. Democrats in an optimistic mood, and figure to aid the party’s efforts to draw financial support from national Democratic groups.
There was a silver lining for Haley on Tuesday. While 54 percent of self-identified Republicans say they want Haley as their gubernatorial nominee again in 2014 to 37 percent who want someone else, she has a huge lead over a pair of possible primary challengers, Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell and state Treasurer Curtis Loftis.
Meanwhile, the same survey found that Graham is much less vulnerable to a GOP challenger than he once was thought to be.
In a January 2011 PPP survey, only 37 percent of self-identified GOP voters said they preferred Graham in a primary, while 52 percent voiced support for a more conservative nominee.
Graham now leads a generic “more conservative” Republican opponent 51 percent to 40 percent, according to Tuesday’s poll results.
Like Haley, Graham earned better marks against a set of actual hypothetical GOP opponents, including 1st District U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, former Gov. Mark Sanford and state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort.
Reach Stephen Largen at 864-641-8172 and follow him on Twitter @stephenlargen.