South Carolinians from both parties have generally given Nikki Haley pretty high marks, particularly for her handling of the Confederate flag drama and the catastrophic storms of 2015 and 2016. The most recent Winthrop Poll placed her approval rating at 57%, reflecting bipartisan appeal.
When Mick Mulvaney was elected to South Carolina House of Representatives in 2006, soon after moving into the state from Charlotte, Nikki Haley already had one term under her belt. She represented a portion of Lexington County and quickly became a star in the Republican caucus in the state house. Mulvaney and Haley were part of a 73-member strong majority in the House during his sole term before moving on to the State Senate as his final stepping stone to Congress.
In the single term they shared in the South Carolina House, Haley and Mulvaney even teamed up on a piece of legislation, a bill requiring a roll call vote any time a law is changed that results in the state spending money. Nikki Haley was the initial sponsor in April 2008. Nine more legislators added their names in the first two days, plus another two a month later. Mulvaney added his name six months later, in October 2008, the last to do so. The bill died soon thereafter.
In 2010, Nikki Haley was elected governor, while Mick Mulvaney moved onto the United States Congress. Two years later, Nikki Haley was able to appoint a hand-selected U.S. Senator after Jim DeMint quit halfway through his term. On December 11, 2012, Washington DC newspaper The Hill announced Haley’s short list of candidates: Rep. Tim Scott, Rep. Trey Gowdy, former South Carolina Attorney General (current lieutenant governor) Henry McMaster, Mark Sanford’s wife Jenny, and attorney Catherine Templeton. As The Hill noted “One name notably not on the list: Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), who said last week he thought he was in the mix and sources say has been considering a Senate run.” The very next day, The Hill delved deeper: “Mulvaney was left off South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s (R) shortlist for possible replacements for DeMint, despite Mulvaney saying last week he thought he’d be considered. Mulvaney and Haley have, at times, had an adversarial relationship, sources said.”
Columbia’s The State also weighed in, saying “Mulvaney was a bit too eager, some say” and adding that he “is too acerbic for some peoples’ tastes.” The paper declared Mulvaney a “loser” after he “went from No. 2 – trailing only Scott in the early handicapping – to off the chart – not even on Haley’s short list.”
Perhaps Mulvaney’s January 2012 comments to GQ had something to do with that. Insinuating that Govenor Haley was not well liked in South Carolina, Mulvaney asked Trey Gowdy, Tim Scott, and Jeff Duncan (and a journalist) over a dinner “So here’s the $64,000 question that I’m sure GQ would love an answer to, and I’m going to try to ask it in a way that won’t get any of us in trouble: Nikki Haley’s endorsement more helpful in state, or out of state?” Tim Scott, the only one of the three smart enough to not throw the governor under the bus in print, remained silent … and he’s the one who ended up with the Senate seat a year later.
Stories of adversarial relationships have followed Mulvaney wherever he’s gone. When he ran for head of the Republican Study Committee, a group of the most ideological conservatives in Congress, this was offered as a point against him. Rep. Bill Flores of Texas said “he thinks Mulvaney and [Texas Rep. Louis] Gohmert would naturally operate in a more ‘combative manner,’ and said, ‘I don’t think it does any good to stand up and beat your chest and say you’re only going to go with the most conservative vision.’” Another aide to a GOP Congressman put it more bluntly, talking about Mulvaney’s House Freedom Caucus, established in 2015 after the RSC proved not to be right-wing enough for him: “They’re not legislators, they’re just assholes … These guys have such a minority mindset that the prospect of getting something done just scares them away, or pisses them off.”
Mulvaney has failed to ingratiate himself with his colleagues at every stop. It’s one reason none of his bills have ever become law. While his party is frequently painted as obstructionist by its opponents, there is perhaps no greater symbol of their sour-faced failure to get along as Mick Mulvaney.