Six weeks ago, this news site reported exclusively on the first poll of the 2018 South Carolina governor’s race.
According to that survey – conducted by South Carolina Public Affairs – incumbent “Republican” governor Henry McMaster was trouncing his top GOP rival Catherine Templeton by a whopping 38.3 percentage point margin.
That poll found Templeton was drawing roughly the same level of support (6 percent) as the other two GOP candidates in the race – lieutenant governor Kevin Bryant (5.1 percent) and former lieutenant governor Yancey McGill (4.3 percent).
McMaster was at 44.3 percent support in the survey.
This week, a new poll has been released and according to its results McMaster still has a large lead … but the gap is narrowing.
Also, Templeton has seen a noticeable uptick in her support … which she’s been able to achieve without having to spend a dime on costly campaign advertising.
According to survey results from Washington, D.C.-based Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy, McMaster currently has the support of 51 percent of GOP primary voters. Templeton is in second place with 21 percent support while Bryant (8 percent) and McGill (1 percent) were lagging well behind the two front-runners.
Nineteen percent of respondents indicated they were undecided.
News of the Mason-Dixon poll was exclusively reported by Jamie Lovegrove of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier.
Our thoughts on this data?
We have several …
First of all we’re clearly looking at a two-person race … one in which Templeton (below), a Lowcountry labor attorney and political newcomer, continues to exceed expectations.
(Click to view)
(Via: Catherine Templeton for Governor)
Also, it seems clear her recent embrace of conservative firebrand Steve Bannon‘s swamp-draining populist zeal is paying dividends for her insurgent candidacy.
Several well-connected Palmetto political insiders have reached out to us expressing frustration with Templeton’s embrace of Bannon’s populism. It was also the subject of an expansive piece by reporter Meg Kinnard of The Associated Press following the defeat of Bannon’s chosen candidate in the U.S. Senate race in Alabama.
Templeton’s pivot has paid off with SCGOP primary voters, though …
As for McMaster, he obviously remains in the driver’s seat … if the election were held today.
Here’s the problem, though. It isn’t.
Also, at this stage of the game, McMaster’s numbers remain exclusively a product of name identification – meaning he’s the only candidate in the race who is known to most voters.
That’s not surprising given the 70-year-old politician has spent the better part of four-and-a-half decades either holding or campaigning for elected office in South Carolina. McMaster has been a U.S. attorney, SCGOP chairman, attorney general and lieutenant governor – not to mention a failed candidate for governor and U.S. Senator.
In other words, assuming this were a typical race McMaster would have very little room to expand his support … but plenty of room to see it erode.
As we’ve previously noted, though, this is not a typical race.
McMaster was supposed to cruise to victory in 2018 after the governor’s mansion was gift-wrapped for him by U.S. president Donald Trump back in January. Trump has also come down to raise money for McMaster, an October endorsement which clearly failed to move the needle.
Any other candidate would have translated these advantages into guaranteed reelection.
McMaster, however, remains exceedingly vulnerable due to his fiscally reckless “leadership” (here and here), his gross incompetence in leading state government (here and here) and his inability to reverse the state’s pervasive economic stagnation (here and here).
Those could be the least of McMaster’s problems, too.
(Click to view)
Earlier this week, McMaster’s longtime political Svengali – veteran “Republican” political consultant Richard Quinn (above) – appeared in a Columbia, S.C. courtroom in connection with the ongoing #ProbeGate investigation into corruption in state government.
A criminal conspiracy charge against Quinn was dismissed during the proceedings, but his firm acknowledged it illegally lobbied elected officials on behalf of various special interests.
One of those interests is McMaster’s former employer – the University of South Carolina.
Back in 2011, USC created a new six-figure taxpayer-funded position for McMaster – ostensibly to raise money for its law school. McMaster was paid $191,000 per year (not counting benefits) in this post.
Also, McMaster’s chief of staff – Trey Walker – has been hauled before the grand jury previously to provide testimony.
Quinn is headed before the grand jury next month, special prosecutor David Pascoe told the court – a development McMaster was reportedly eyeing warily.
Bottom line? Templeton and her supporters have to be exceedingly pleased with their positioning in this race.
“If that’s all he’s got after thirty years of statewide name recognition and she has been at this quietly for less than a year – I think the people are ready for ‘not Henry,'” a source close to Templeton’s campaign told us.
We concur … and again, all of this is before Templeton launches any sort of paid media offensive touting her credentials/ drawing contrasts to the incumbent.
McMaster’s lead in the 2018 GOP gubernatorial race remains commanding, but as we noted when the last poll came out several weeks ago it is fragile. And with #ProbeGate clearly ramping up, a sword of Damocles is hanging over his candidacy.
That’s why the 51 percent he registered in this survey is likely to be the high-water mark of his campaign …
WANNA SOUND OFF?
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