With President Barack Obama’s chances of re-election slipping with every ominous drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Republicans will be sure to exploit the recent raft of bad economic news, capped off, of course, by Friday’s decision by Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the U.S. government debt rating for the first time in history.

Moreover, with Rick Perry, the handsome, charismatic Republican governor of Texas, ready to make his announcement that he will join the GOP pool of presidential nominees any day now, he might be wise to choose the governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, to be his running mate.

Next week, Perry is scheduled to visit South Carolina, which just happens to be an important early primary state and Haley’s home.

A Perry candidacy would throw some life into what has so far been a very lackluster field of potential GOP candidates. Having Haley as a running mate would push the campaign into the realm of genuine excitement.

Haley would make a far more attractive VP candidate than, say, Sarah Palin, who simply carries too much negative baggage and probably would only want the top job anyway.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal might make an interesting choice, but he, too, is believed to have aspirations for the chief executive position.

Some may scoff that an all-Southern ticket might turn off the Northeast and California – but consider that the successful 1992 Democratic ticket featured two Southerners (Bill Clinton of Arkansas and Al Gore of Tennessee).

More importantly, Haley, the vivacious South Carolina governor and relative political newcomer, would be unlike any vice presidential nominee the country has ever seen – she is a woman and she is the daughter of immigrants from India.

On the latter two counts alone, the Republicans would take away two of the Democrats’ alleged sources of core support – women and nonwhites.

Granted, Perry and Haley would form a decidedly right-wing ticket – but Obama has never been so vulnerable as he is now. Unless the economy miraculously improves over the next 12 months, he has no chance of winning a second term.

Indeed, the country is so polarized now, that a “balanced ticket” (on ideological terms) might serve no practical purpose.

The left wing of the Democratic Party would likely sneer at a Perry-Haley pairing, but moderates might be tempted to reconsider party loyalty in the face of an unrelenting economic malaise.

As for Republican voters, they can hardly wait for the 2012 election so they can wave goodbye to Obama and company.

Moderate Republicans (if there are any left) would have little choice but to support Perry (unless they break ranks, which some reportedly did in 1992 to give Clinton a resounding victory).

One lesson of the current political reality is that the Tea Party has left an indelible footprint in the GOP – and they will not be satisfied with anyone but extremely conservative (fiscally and socially) candidates. Perry and Haley fit the bill perfectly.