Gov. Nikki Haley’s re-election year budget plan builds on some of the promises she made when she first ran four years ago, with tax cuts and public safety in the mix.

But it also represents a target.

Democrats — and even some political talking heads — were quick to point out Haley’s attention to education and mental health could easily be seen as attempts to neutralize her Democratic opposition.

“They must feel it’s a more moderate electorate out there,” retired Francis Marion University political scientist Neal Thigpen said Monday in assessing her administration’s 2014 spending ideas.

Thigpen, who has followed Republican politics in the state for years, said the most obvious political target in her budget is announced Democratic challenger, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden.

Haley’s camp must see a need in “trying to block him out,” Thigpen added, “and being ahead of him in trying to blunt those issues that he may be able to use.”

Haley on Monday downplayed the fact that the November election played a role in how her administration’s spending ideas were put together.

“What else are they going to say?” she said during a briefing with the media in Columbia to outline her goals for 2014-15. “Those are my thoughts.”

Haley’s spending wishes calls for spending more to educate poor children, along with public safety, infrastructure, and giving most taxpayers a slight income tax decrease.

Democrats issued a variety of criticisms.

“The only thing less impressive than Nikki Haley’s failure to lead in this budget is her inability to deliver results on what she’s proposed in this budget or in the past,” said Sheheen campaign manager Andrew Whalen.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551