As the 2018 South Carolina governor’s race heads for the homestretch, incumbent “Republican” Henry McMaster is keeping a much lighter schedule than his GOP opponents – missing numerous candidate forums and rallies around the state.
McMaster’s absence at several high-profile events has been conspicuous – reviving concerns about his lack of a ground game as well as rumors regarding his poor health.
McMaster, who turns 71 later this month, was gifted the governor’s office last January by U.S. president Donald Trump. At the time he bragged of a “ten-year reign,” implying that he planned to run – and win – in both 2018 and 2022.
At the time, such a scenario seemed eminently plausible … although struggles on the campaign trail and in office over the past year-and-a-half have hobbled McMaster, leaving him in the midst of a bruising primary in which he faces numerous credible challengers. Among them? Lowcounty labor attorney Catherine Templeton, Upstate businessman John Warren and lieutenant governor Kevin Bryant.
Templeton and Warren loom as particularly high hurdles – especially if one of them is able to make it into a head-to-head “Republican” runoff election with McMaster next month.
The math for McMaster is simple: He needs to get fifty percent of the vote (plus one) on June 12 to avoid a runoff election and become the GOP nominee for governor. If he fails to do that, he could easily cough up the nomination in the June 26 head-to-head battle – an outcome many national “Republicans” seem to be embracing.
In a South Carolina partisan primary election involving more than two contestants, if no candidate receives a majority of votes on the first ballot – i.e. fifty percent plus one – then the top two finishers square off two weeks later in a runoff election.
If McMaster is worried missing this critical threshold … you’d never know it from watching his lackadaisical, lethargic campaign organization.
Earlier this week, McMaster was a no-show at a massive GOP gathering in Horry County, S.C. – one that included more than 500 activists from points all along the Grand Strand. This event – entitled “Rock the Red” – featured appearances from Templeton, Warren, Bryant and former S.C. lieutenant governor Yancey McGill.
Templeton and Warren delivered strong performances, we’re told, while Bryant boasted an endorsement from local tea party founder Joe Dugan.
McMaster? He was nowhere to be found …
Local bloggers took note – attributing the incumbent’s absence to his lingering proximity to the #ProbeGate investigation, which has centered around the political consulting empire of his former strategist, Richard Quinn.
“McMaster is currently embroiled in the probe being investigated by special prosecutor David Pascoe,” wrote David Hucks for MyrtleBeachSC.com. “The probe centers around his friend, and long-time former political consultant, Richard Quinn, Sr. As such, McMaster has largely stayed out of public venues, primarily using electronic media to get his message out to voters.”
The incumbent governor is also refusing to appear at a candidate forum scheduled for next Monday (May 14) in Greenville, S.C. Sponsored by the Greenville Tea Party and scheduled to be broadcast by WORD 106.3 FM, the forum will feature Templeton, Warren, Bryant and McGill.
Event organizers made no secret of their displeasure over McMaster’s absence.
Here’s an excerpt from an email the group’s chairman, Pressley Stutts, sent out earlier this week …
We don’t know exactly why the Gubna’ won’t participate. We have been reaching out to his office for over 6 months now only to finally hear last week that he will only participate in SCGOP sanctioned forums. We hear that, EXCEPT the Governor is traveling all over the state participating in OTHER non GOP sanctioned forums and debates. As a matter of fact, he was here in Greenville at another forum just last week. It doesn’t make sense and we can only conclude that either the Governor is not a very good debater or he is afraid of the regular every day grassroots people like you and me and doesn’t want to answer our questions.
McMaster was, in fact, in Greenville, S.C. last week at a candidate forum held in conjunction with the local “Republican” party’s bronze elephant event – a sold-out, standing-room-only gathering held at The Poinsett Club.
How’d he do?
You tell us …
(Click to view)
Our view? McMaster still has every opportunity to eclipse the fifty-percent threshold and avoid a runoff election … but he’s not helping himself with uninspired appearances and no-shows at key campaign events.
Of course, McMaster is also in a bit of a conundrum according to one GOP operative who attended the Greenville event.
“It’s worse for him when he shows up,” the operative told us. “Maybe his campaign is smarter than we give them credit for? If I were running his race I’d keep him at home, too.”
One McMaster backer continued to exude confidence, though.
“With a thirty-plus point lead why would you punch down?” the supporter told us. “Let the JV squad fight it out amongst themselves and waste their donors well-intentioned cash.”
GOP voters head to the polls across South Carolina on June 12 – just 33 days away. McMaster’s future will obviously become much clearer on that date. Either he will be the GOP nominee – or he will be in the fight of his political life.
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