HOW MANY WILL VOTE? AND WHERE?
We’ve written previously on the Palmetto State’s “First in the South” electorate – at least what we learned about it the last time the presidential circus came to town.
Our takeaway? The “Republican” electorate is dying … literally.
Don’t get us wrong, they still vote in droves … but the GOP in South Carolina is the party of old, white people. Four-fifths of the electorate is 45 years or older – and more than a third of it is over 65 years of age.
Wait … what’s that we say?
Eh? Eh? Crank your hearing aids up, people!
These “mature” voters overwhelmingly backed status quo candidates in 2012 – delivering 244,065 voters (4o percent of ballots cast) to former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Finishing a distant second place was S.C. governor Nikki Haley‘s candidate of choice – former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who got 168,123 votes (28 percent of ballots). In third place was former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania with 102,475 votes (17 percent) and finishing in fourth was our favored candidate – former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul who earned 78,360 votes (13 percent).
Numerous candidates – including one-time South Carolina frontrunner Rick Perry – bailed on the race before it even crossed the Mason-Dixon line.
Anyway, unlike 2012 this year’s “Republican” primary in the Palmetto State is shaping up as a decidedly anti-establishment affair – with national frontrunner and New Hampshire winner Donald Trump and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas dominating “First in the South” polls.
While those two battle it out for supremacy, a furious (and expensive) status quo undercard is raging between three candidates: U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Ohio governor John Kasich.
Rubio could have effectively closed out Bush and Kasich with a second-place finish in New Hampshire … but he didn’t get it done. Instead Kasich was the one who emerged with the establishment momentum.
As a result, what most expected to be a three-person race heading into South Carolina is a four- or five-person affair.
“There is only one ticket out of South Carolina,” one GOP source told us. “Beyond Trump and Cruz – one ticket. And Jeb and Marco are going to kill each other for it.”
Where will all of these candidates be searching for votes?
The Upstate …
Vote-rich Greenville County provided 77,270 “First in the South” ballots in 2012 – roughly 13 percent of the statewide GOP vote total. Charleston County in the Lowcountry came in a distant second (47,013 votes) followed by Lexington County in the Midlands (43,968 votes), Horry County along the coast (40,671 votes), Spartanburg County in the Upstate (38,216 votes), Richland County in the Midlands (35,358 votes) and York County in the Charlotte area (31,611 votes).
Gingrich cleaned up in the Upstate – and pretty much everywhere – in 2012. He won 43 of the state’s 46 counties and six of its seven congressional districts. Romney won just three counties (Beaufort, Charleston and Richland) and one congressional district – the first district in the Lowcountry.
More voters are expected to go to the polls this year – although early reports don’t point to the sort of major spike in registration many anticipated. Trump has huge populist appeal, while Cruz appears to have a solid grassroots operation – and between the two of them they are already pulling in nearly 60 percent of the vote.
That leaves Rubio, Bush and Kasich fighting for their survival among the remaining 40 percent …
A national reporter reached out to this website’s founding editor Will Folks recently seeking his thoughts on what voters should expect in South Carolina.
“Chaos,” he responded. “And blood.”