Poor Vince Sheheen.
It's not even Labor Day and already the usual South Carolina Democratic desperation has set in.
The Dems' gubernatorial nominee has challenged tea party star/Republican nominee Nikki Haley to a series of intense, issues-oriented Lincoln-Douglas debates across the state.
Yep, that's a game-changer. Nothing says "I know I'm smarter than you but can't get any traction in the polls" like pulling out the ol' Lincoln-Douglas chestnut.
If Sheheen is half as smart as the Dems think he is, he ought to know that Haley is not that stupid. She won't agree to that many debates and give her opponent -- who is nearly 20 points behind in the polls, give or take -- that kind of platform to possibly prove himself the superior candidate.
And he really needs to have his head examined if he thinks her refusal to agree to a series of debates is going to put a chink in her substantial armor.
If adultery accusations, a failure to pay her own taxes and a skimpy legislative resume aren't going to hurt her, this surely won't.
Sheheen has been viewed by many Democrats as their best chance to take the governor's mansion in a long time.
He's young, moderate (despite what the Republican Party says), has the public support of the business community and the quiet backing of several GOP leaders.
In another year, he might do OK. But not this year, not with the Dems in power in Washington (for the moment) and not with many folks so blind with rage over President Barack Obama that they can't see his birth certificate when it gets plastered all over the news.
Even though Sheheen faces an Everest-size climb, the boy just hasn't been working it that hard -- at least not hard enough to garner much media attention. And when you're down double digits in the polls, you can't wait until after Labor Day (the traditional campaign kick-off) to start building that name recognition.
Might as well throw in the towel now.
In fairness to Sheheen, there's probably nothing he can do at this point. A good chunk of voters are dug in and choose not to believe that anything bad about their candidate might be true.
Fact is, this entire campaign defies logic. The same Rasmussen poll that showed Haley with a 52-36 lead over Sheheen also revealed that 51 percent of voters disapprove of Gov. Mark Sanford, the more substantive politician on whom Haley has based her whole persona.
Haley is basically promising four more years of Sanford's agenda, and even though voters don't want that, they apparently want her. How exactly does this compute? It doesn't.
And that, ultimately, is the thing that most makes Sheheen look completely foolish to propose Lincoln-Douglas-style debates. People don't want to hear the mind-numbing details of policy -- they are just voting for the "R" on the ballot no matter who it is.
The only way this entire dust-up makes sense is if Sheheen is trying to remind folks that, in such a debate, Haley would be Lincoln.
And, of course, Abe Lincoln still ain't real popular in this state.