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#SC2018: Henry McMaster’s Late Charge?

GOP undercard battle could be benefitting embattled incumbent …

Is conventional wisdom collapsing in the final, frantic days of the 2018 South Carolina “Republican” gubernatorial primary?

Maybe …

For weeks, incumbent “Republican” governor Henry McMaster has watched his poll numbers steadily erode as a pair of credible, well-funded challengers – first Lowcountry labor lawyer Catherine Templeton and more recently Upstate businessman John Warren – have made their moves.

Political analysts have long believed McMaster would likely lose to either Templeton or Warren in a runoff election … but the unexpected acrimony and ferociousness of the GOP undercard battle is beginning to shake the foundations of this long-held presumption.

Could the increasingly contentious fight for second place wind up gifting McMaster an improbable victory? 

Here’s the deal: In South Carolina partisan primary elections, if no candidate receives a majority of votes on the first ballot (i.e. fifty percent plus one) then the race advances to a runoff election between the top two vote-getters two weeks later.  As atrociously as his campaign has been managed, McMaster is all but guaranteed of winning one of those spots in a runoff – which would be held on June 26.

Can McMaster prevail in that head-to-head contest?  Originally our answer would have been “no” (“hell no,” actually), but that was before the caustic campaign being waged between Warren and Templeton.

According to a new survey from an unaffiliated pollster, McMaster is beginning to gain ground as Templeton wages an increasingly aggressive campaign against Warren.

Take a look at the latest gubernatorial results this pollster provided us with …

HENRY McMASTER – 42.6 PERCENT
JOHN WARREN – 17.24 PERCENT
CATHERINE TEMPLETON – 14.8 PERCENT
KEVIN BRYANT – 9.1 PERCENT
YANCEY McGILL – 3.74 PERCENT
UNDECIDED/ REFUSED – 12.52 PERCENT

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According to the pollster, McMaster has seen his support climb by nearly five percentage points over the last few days … while Warren and Templeton have both seen their numbers drop by roughly four percentage points apiece.

Do we buy the data?   Hmmmm …

First off, we have not seen a survey showing McMaster above 38 percent in more than a month (and he has done absolutely nothing to warrant an uptick in the polls).  His campaign, like his administration, has been an unmitigated disaster … and reelecting him would be about the dumbest thing Palmetto State “Republicans” could do.

But these are the first credible numbers we have seen since Templeton began opening the bomb bay doors and unloading on Warren.

Could her broadsides be fundamentally redefining the race in McMaster’s favor?

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According to our sources, Templeton’s campaign has been adjusting its ad buys during the final week of the race to devote more resources toward attack ads against Warren – driving up his negatives and (obviously) eroding his overall support.

But could this “shifting (of) traffic” have the unintended consequence of helping McMaster?

Obviously we will await additional data to see if this poll is the first evidence of a new (and troubling) trend in this race …

Also, stay tuned for another story soon related to the Templeton versus Warren undercard battle that could also wind up impacting the future trajectory of this race … in McMaster’s benefit.

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