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State Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D)
Could Vincent Sheheen beat Nikki Haley?
While all eyes are on GOP Gov. Nikki Haley as she chooses a replacement for resigning Sen. Jim DeMint, don't forget that she has a re-election battle of her own to deal with in two years' time. As is their wont, PPP has the first numbers of the cycle pitting Haley against the man she narrowly edged by just four points two years ago, Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen. Now Sheheen's on top, 46-44, in a potential rematch, even though more than half of all voters don't even have an opinion of him. That's quite worrisome for Haley, who sports a weak 42-49 job approval rating herself.

And it also looks like the GOP will be stuck with her: By a 53-37 margin, Republicans want her as their nominee once more. Moreover, in hypothetical primary matchups against Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell and state Treasurer Curtis Loftis, Haley absolutely crushes (58-26 and 66-18, respectively). I don't know if anyone's talked seriously about taking her out in a primary, but numbers like these aren't very encouraging. That's probably good news for Sheheen: He beats Loftis 46-37 and McConnell 44-41, suggesting he has a pretty high natural floor against Haley but might fare worse against a less damaged opponent.

Meanwhile, South Carolina's other senator, Lindsey Graham, also has to worry about his own re-election fight. Yet while Graham might at one point have looked like the Republican most vulnerable to a primary challenge, PPP's new numbers suggest that title may now belong to Georgia's Saxby Chambliss. Among Republican primary voters, Graham earns a healthy 66-26 job approval rating, and against Republican Jesus (aka "somebody more conservative"), Graham actually leads 51-40—up from 37-52 in January of 2011. And he does even better against real human beings:

• 54-32 vs. Rep. Tim Scott

• 57-29 vs. Rep. Trey Gowdy

• 64-26 vs. ex-Gov. Mark Sanford

• 64-20 vs. Rep. Mick Mulvaney

• 67-17 vs. state Sen. Tom Davis

You have to wonder if Graham (who has lately turned himself into an utter jerkass over the U.S. embassy attack in Libya) will manage to re-invent himself the way Utah's Orrin Hatch did. Unlikely Dick Lugar, Graham seems to understand that the most important way to make yourself appreciated by conservative primary voters is to vocally express your disgust and hatred for Democrats all the live-long day. That may well be enough to rehabilitate his image and ward off a serious challenge from the right—we'll just have to see.

P.S. You may recall last week's poll from Winthrop University that gave Obama a hard-to-believe 48-41 approval rating in South Carolina. PPP finds him with a much more down-to-earth score of 44-53.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 10:13 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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