Did South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley (R) cheat on her husband with conservative blogger Will Folks? Folks moved the dramatic "he said, she said" story one step further Wednesday, releasing a series of text messages between himself, Haley's campaign manager, and a third man (a blogger who supports Haley's rival) that Folks says back up his story of a 2007 "inappropriate physical relationship." Haley, a Tea Party favorite, unequivocally denies Folks' claim, and her campaign said the text messages, while authentic, were exchanged in the context of "false claims" and only prove that Folks' "overactive imagination has gone into overdrive." Here's four theories on what really happened:
1. Folks has the goods on Haley
"Folks is a bit of a loose cannon," but his text-message dump is a real problem for Haley, says David Kurtz in Talking Points Memo. The damning messages aren't "conclusive proof of an affair," but at this point "you have to suspend common sense to believe there's not more to this" than Haley's acknowledging. And if these exchanges don't convince you they had a dalliance, "Folks has given every indication there are more texts to come." (Watch Will Folks' first public comments on the alleged affair)
2. Nothing happened — this is just dirty politics
These sex allegations came from one of her GOP rivals, "designed, without question, to try to stop her momentum" in the polls, says longtime South Carolina political analyst Neal Thigpen, to South Carolina's Morning News. Unless Folks has "got something more that gets closer to a smoking gun," especially "something salacious…particularly from Haley to Folks," the shady, "hooey"-slinging blogger will lose this "he said, she said" standoff with Haley.
3. It is a plot — to help Haley
Remember, "Folks has been a longtime advocate of Haley's," says Yvonne Wenger in The Charleston Post and Courier. Given that, and his lack of an obvious motive, it's no wonder "some in political circles have suggested that Folks has orchestrated the blog claims as a way to build a risky media strategy to build buzz for Haley and create sympathy for her as being a victim of the dirty politics she rails against on the campaign trail."
4. Whatever happened, the episode is depressing: I don't really care who slept with who, says David Dayen at Firedoglake, but this incident says a lot about the "smallness" of those involved in our political process. On the surface, the e-mail exchange "documents minute-by-minute how people plan to...cover up a story, throw up blockades to get others off the trail of a story...It’s twisted and sad and reflects a real megalomania amongst everyone involved. The truth isn’t seen as particularly important or even relevant — only the spin, the way to 'present' the story."