There's a big question mark looming over South Carolina tonight following allegations that one of the state's leading gubernatorial candidates had an affair. A conservative blogger and former aid to Gov. Mark Sanford claims he had an "inappropriate physical relationship" with Republican Nikki Haley. On his website, Will Folks, the blogger in question, said he supports Haley's gubernatorial bid but must clear his conscience:

Within the last forty-eight hours several pieces of information which purportedly document a prior physical relationship between myself and Rep. Haley have begun to be leaked slowly, piece by piece, to members of the mainstream media. I am told that at least one story based upon this information will be published this week.

I refuse to play that game. I refuse to have someone hold the political equivalent of a switch-blade in front of my face and just sit there and watch as they cut me to pieces.

The truth in this case is what it is.  Several years ago, prior to my marriage, I had an inappropriate physical relationship with Nikki.

Haley vehemently denies the allegation:
I have been 100% faithful to my husband throughout our 13 years of marriage. This claim against me is categorically and totally false.

It is sad, but not surprising, that this disgraceful smear has taken form less than a week removed from the release of a poll showing our campaign with a significant lead. It is quite simply South Carolina politics at its worst.
The allegation appears to be either a stunning sex scandal (apparently the first of its kind by a female American politician) or a malicious smear campaign. Bloggers on the left and right parse the details:
  • This Guy Is Makin' Stuff Up, claims Sarah Palin, who supports Haley's bid for governor: “For traditional media to rely on an accusation via some blog entry is almost laughable, but I know the seriousness of it because that’s exactly what my family and colleagues have had to put up with, every single day, for the past couple of years.”
  • Haley's Defense Sounds Lacking, writes David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo: "Haley blames what she calls 'these attacks' and 'this disgraceful smear' on her political opponents and the fact that she is leading in the most recent poll of the Republican gubernatorial primary. But what makes her blistering denial so odd is that Folks is a Haley supporter and says as much in the same blog post in which he admitted to the affair, calling her 'the one S.C. gubernatorial candidate who, in my opinion, would most consistently advance the ideals I believe in.' So it doesn't stand to reason that Folks would be attacking her. But this is South Carolina, so just because it stands to reason doesn't make it so."
  • Time to Wait for Hard Evidence, writes Jon Bershad at Mediaite: "If Folks is a supporter of Haley, as he claims, we can assume he would only come forward with his admission if proof of the affair was inevitable. If nothing else appears than it is possible that Folks himself was behind a deceitful attack on the representative. Only time will tell and we will publish new information as it becomes available."
  • The Allegation Is Probably True, writes Michael Brendan Dougherty at The American Conservative. He claims to have sources privy to the matter. "Nikki Haley probably had an affair... I’m told that the affair occurred in 2008 when Folks was working with Haley on her Congressional re-election campaign. Haley was married at the time... Corey Hutchins, a whip-smart, and well-sourced reporter for the Columbia-based alt-weekly, Free Times, reports that Folks admitted to the affair almost a year ago. If true, this would put to rest the defense that these rumors are only coming out because the primary is in two weeks. The AP, the Free Press and other South Carolina sources have been working on this story for over a month, apparently badgering Folks... If this turns out to be true, and I think it will, the affair will be a black mark not only on Haley’s promising campaign, but on Jenny Sanford who is about to launch a book-tour, and Sarah Palin who seems determined to go to the mat for Haley."
  • Who Is This Guy Anyway?  Cheves Lignon at Frum Forum takes a closer look: "Even an occasional glance at his daily postings shows Will Folks has a thing for the ladies: his blog is famous for the Carolina’s Hottest Lawyer Contest where lusty legal-types submit names and pictures of the comeliest female attorneys in the state, with a final vote determining the 'Hottest.'  But Folks has been a real force in S.C. politics.  He worked as spin-meister for Gov. Sanford for several years before becoming a blogger, then distanced himself after the famous(ly weird and awkward) Argentinean-mistress sex scandal rocked the news.  His blog — fitsnews.com, which he calls 'Unfair.  Unbalanced.' — is ubiquitous in South Carolina politics.  His cranky, sarcastic commentary and insider scoops have made his blog a daily read among the powerful."