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#SC2018: Henry McMaster Edges John Warren

“Foghorn Guvnah” claims 2018 GOP gubernatorial nomination …

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“I say, I say boy …”

“Foghorn Guvnah” is officially the ruler of the “Republican” roost in South Carolina.

Henry McMaster – the guffawing, glad-handing caricature of a career politician – shook off scandals and shoddy governing/ campaigning to defeat Upstate businessman John Warren on Tuesday night, capturing the 2018 GOP gubernatorial nomination.

With 97 percent of precincts reporting, McMaster led Warren by a 53-47 percent margin – roughly identical to the spread projected yesterday by pollster Robert Cahaly (who also nailed the outcome of the GOP primary election two weeks ago).

Talk about #Winning …

McMaster – who owes both his incumbency and his runoff victory to U.S. president Donald Trump – now advances to face Democrat James Smith in what could be an unexpectedly competitive general election in November.

Smith cruised to the Democratic nomination two weeks ago, defeating a pair of uber-liberal candidates to claim his spot on the November ballot (along with his running mate, state representative Mandy Powers Norrell).  The Afghan War veteran and former S.C. minority leader gives his party a legitimate shot at the governor’s mansion for the first time in two decades – and he has drawn the opponent his campaign was hoping to draw in the fall election.

Can he win on November 6?  Obviously the 50-year-old Columbia, S.C. attorney faces an uphill climb in a bright red state, but Smith stands to benefit from the badly fractured GOP electorate – as well as a “Republican” nominee whose campaign went out of its way to threaten and alienate its primary opponents.

Those threats could come back to haunt McMaster in the fall …

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Clearly, the incumbent has his work cut out for him when it comes to uniting his party.  Eight years ago, former S.C. governor Nikki Haley captured a whopping 65 percent of the vote in her “Republican” runoff victory over former U.S. congressman Gresham Barrett.  Still, Haley stumbled to an uninspiring win over charisma-challenged Democrat Vincent Sheheen in a Tea Party wave election.

McMaster fell well short of that mark … and is facing a much stronger candidate in what many expect will be a wave election for Democrats.

National Democrats smell blood in the water.  In fact, before all of the votes had been counted they issued a statement citing McMaster’s proximity to #ProbeGate – an ongoing investigation into public corruption in state government.

“Despite being the sitting governor and having the president’s endorsement, McMaster just barely made it out of his own close primary because even Republicans are fed up with the corruption in the State House,” a release from the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) noted. “This embarrassingly tight runoff proved once again that McMaster is a deeply damaged candidate heading into the general.”

Meanwhile the Republican Governors Association (RGA) – which clearly hoped McMaster would lose this race – sought to put the best spin on things.

“Governor Henry McMaster’s pro-jobs leadership is producing real results for the people of South Carolina,” the group’s leader, Tennessee governor Bill Haslam said in a perfunctory statement. “With a full term in office, governor McMaster will continue to promote job growth, improve education, keep taxes low, expand opportunity, and continue to build a better South Carolina for everyone. The Republican Governors Association is proud to support governor Henry McMaster’s re-election so he can continue leading South Carolina forward in a full term.”

Promote job growth?  Um.

Improve education? Err.

Keep taxes low? (Wink).

Usually in South Carolina, the “Republican” primary is the be-all, end-all race – the battle for all the marbles.  That may not be the case in this election cycle, however.

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