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#SC2018: Round One Done

Democrats rally behind James Smith, “Republicans” narrow their field …

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GOP TURNOUT DIPS … 

Democrats minted their nominee for governor of South Carolina – emphatically – while “Republicans” whittled their gubernatorial field down to two finalists, including an embattled incumbent.  Meanwhile, a stunning upset took place in a Lowcountry congressional race – and the results of a hotly contested Upstate race were muddied by dysfunctional vote counting.

It was a long, crazy night in Palmetto politics … one that produced nearly as many questions as it provided answers.

In the marquee statewide matchup, James Smith stormed to the Democratic nomination – capturing 61.9 percent of the vote against a pair of uber-liberal opponents.  Smith carried 45 of the state’s 46 counties, a decisive showing that saw him nearly equal the vote total of the leading “Republican” candidate, incumbent governor Henry McMaster.

A fifty-year-old Afghan War veteran and former S.C. minority leader, Smith was deemed by many in his party as too moderate – especially on the issue of gun control.  He also invited the rage of the far left when he rebuked identity politics and chose a running mate he believes will help him win in November.

Smith’s selection of centrist state representative Mandy Powers Norrell (below) created the lone all-white ticket in a race where black voters were expected to comprise a majority of the electorate.

(Click to view)

(Via: @MPowersNorrell)

Did they?

That remains to be seen … but Smith crushed it among the voters who showed up.

As of this writing, the Democratic primary appears to have attracted nearly a quarter of a million voters (well above our expectation of 150,000 voters).

National “Republicans” took note, honing their general election attacks on Smith before all the primary ballots had even been counted.

“By choosing James Smith as their nominee, South Carolina Democrats have embraced the most extreme, far-left gubernatorial candidate in their state’s history,” said Jon Thompson of the Republican Governors Association (RGA). “Smith would raise taxes, crush job-growth through crippling regulations, and impose big government programs that would bankrupt the state. Smith also owes South Carolinians answers following reports that he potentially engaged in prohibited activity by running illegal schemes with taxpayer dollars.  South Carolina voters can’t trust James Smith to be honest or lead the state forward, and will reject his candidacy at the ballot box this November.”

The “illegal schemes” is a reference to this scandal – which we agree poses a stumbling block to Smith as his campaign enters its next phase.

S.C. Democratic Party (SCDP) chairman Trav Robertson rebuked the RGA’s attack.

“The RGA can’t get their chosen candidate Hank McMaster out of a primary, so they’ve got nothing better to do tonight than start lobbing attacks at a war hero,” Robertson said. “James Smith is going to take the fight to the Republicans this November and they’re scared enough already to turn to Washington D.C. strategists who have never stepped foot in South Carolina.  I’d expect nothing more from a few desperate Republicans after the terrible night they’ve had.  The RGA is going to try to lie their way to victory in November, but that’s a whole lot harder when they can’t get it right in June.  Washington D.C. will not determine who is elected the next governor of South Carolina.”

“Republicans” indeed had a rough night …

Despite having five candidates in the race, the GOP primary appears to have drawn only around 365,000 voters – well below the 422,251 who showed up for the last competitive “Republican” gubernatorial scrape, a four-way battle in 2010 that also included McMaster’s name on the ballot.

McMaster finished in third place eight years ago.  This time he led the way with 42.4 percent of the vote – a 14.7 percent edge over Upstate businessman John Warren, who finished at 27.7 percent.

The two will meet on June 26 in a winner-take-all runoff election – the ultimate “insider” versus “outsider” showdown.

Lowcountry labor attorney Catherine Templeton – who spent the last week of the race engaged in a scorched earth war against Warren – finished in third place with 21.4 percent of the vote while lieutenant governor Kevin Bryant came in fourth with the support of 6.7 percent of GOP voters.

Bryant is likely to endorse Warren’s candidacy ahead of the runoff.  It remains to be seen what – if anything – Templeton will do.  Also unclear?  Which candidate Templeton’s national supporters will back in the runoff.

A number worth watching two weeks from now? 360,000.

That’s the number of “Republican” voters who showed up for the 2010 runoff election between former S.C. governor Nikki Haley and ex-congressman Gresham Barrett.  Our guess is the GOP fails to even approach that number on June 26.

Developing …

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