Much has been made of the fact that S.C. Gov.-elect Nikki Haley recorded the narrowest victory margin of any Republican candidate on South Carolina’s statewide ballot in last week’s election. Much has also been made of the fact that Haley’s 51.3 percent popular vote total was the second-lowest figure among GOP candidates (narrowly besting S.C. Superintendent of Education-elect Mick Zais).
“Mandate, schmandate” in other words.
Now … what hasn’t been written about as thoroughly? The extent to which straight ticket Republican voters were responsible for producing Haley’s win – and for providing bigger-than-expected victory margins for several other GOP candidates (i.e. Attorney General-elect Alan Wilson, incumbent Comptroller Richard Eckstrom and Lt. Gov.-elect Ken Ard).
Despite its status as one of the “reddest states in America” (in more ways than one), GOP straight ticket voting is a departure from the norm in South Carolina, where the vast majority of straight ticket voters are usually pulling the lever for Democratic candidates. In fact, during the last presidential election in 2008 there were 506,702 straight ticket Democratic voters compared to 434,957 straight ticket Republican voters – a gap of more than 70,000.
Yet of the 690,525 votes that Haley received on Tuesday, 322,923 of them were courtesy of straight ticket GOP voters. That accounted for a whopping 46.7 percent of her total. By comparison, in 2006 S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford received 601,868 total votes – but only 220,489 from straight ticket voters. That adds up to just 36.6 percent of Sanford’s total.
All told, there were 46.4 percent more straight ticket GOP voters in 2010 than their were four years ago.
Meanwhile, S.C. Sen. Vincent Sheheen received 52 percent of his vote total from straight ticket Democratic voters – which is identical to the percentage of straight ticket support that Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tommy Moore’s received in 2006. Also, the number of straight ticket Democratic voters increased by 28.5 percent from the last mid-term election – a sizable jump but nowhere near the huge gains that Republicans registered.
Translation? Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi didn’t just hand over control of the U.S. Congress to Republicans – they kept the S.C. Governor’s Mansion in GOP hands.
Seriously, people … in any other year, even in a solidly-GOP state like South Carolina, Haley would have been toast.