It's too soon to assess how this week's bombshell of a possible inappropriate relationship between gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley and a political blogger will reverberate in the June 8 primary, observers say.
A lot will depend on what information emerges in coming days to corroborate or discredit Will Folks' claim that he had an "inappropriate sexual relationship" with Haley.
Folks announced the alleged relationship on his blog Monday, saying he felt compelled to clear the air because a "network of operatives has made it abundantly clear that in the process of 'taking down' Rep. Haley, they will also stop at nothing to humiliate me."
Scott Huffmon, a political science professor at Winthrop University, said it's hard to judge the truth of what's going on.
Haley's problem won't be with her core supporters but with Republican voters just beginning to consider her, particularly in the wake of her strong showing in recent polls and her endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
"Those are the people that jumped on the bandwagon, but they're sort of clinging to the sides," Huffmon said. "The jostling from the ruts like this scandal may bounce them off. ... There's virtually no way it can help."
President Bill Clinton dodged serious political troubles as rumors of affairs swirled around him until some proof -- in his case, Monica Lewinsky's dress -- emerged, noted Clemson University political science professor Dave Woodard.
"I think until there's some evidence, I don't think there will be anything that can come of it," Woodard said. "As a blogger you can write anything. I don't know how these guys make money."
Haley's denials follow a similar strategy used by other politicians such as Clinton and John Edwards, but they paid a heavy price when later information proved the affairs, said Jeri Cabot, adjunct professor of political science at the College of Charleston.
"What does it tell you about the Republican Party? Is it so big it can afford these fissures?" Cabot asked. "I guess the short answer to that is yes."
"I love South Carolina politics as a spectator sport," Huffmon added, "but sometimes it's hard to bear as a South Carolina citizen."
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