Thursday, September 27, 2018

South Carolina Governor- Race of the Day

40 Days Until Election Day

South Carolina Governor

Status: Republican Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Red State (South)

Outlook: Likely Republican

The Palmetto State is firmly Republican these days, but that does not mean that splits within the state GOP do not exist. There seems to be a least a small opening for Democrats in this race, but probably an extremely small one at that.

Republicans have won all but one of South Carolina's Gubernatorial races going back to 1982, but the last several wins were still considered either very or somewhat competitive. That applied to the two terms won by Nikki Haley, who had her detractors within the GOP of her state, but which did not diminish her burgeoning national profile and ambition. The Presidential election year of 2016 saw her struggle for months regarding what to do about Donald Trump, whom was clearly a different type of Republican, at the top of the national ticket. Ultimately, she supported him, but seemingly with great reservation. That led some to be surprised when Trump selected the Governor, who had no foreign policy experience, to be his Ambassador to the United Nations. Haley moved to New York City and has been a high-profile member of the Administration. While she has remained publicly loyal to Trump, she has won plaudits even by conservatives who do not like the current President, and some have mentioned her as a potential primary opponent for Trump (which is highly unlikely) or as someone who might run to succeed him and who would have at least a semblance of distance from the White House.

The selection of Haley for the U.N. though was perhaps not as much about her, but about the man who would replace her as Governor. Henry McMaster has been around South Carolina politics for decades. His resume includes losing an uphill U.S. Senate race in 1986, and then a contest for Lt. Governor four years later, when Democrats still held a lot of power in the state. After some time as State GOP Chair, he was elected as the state's Attorney General in 2002 and served two terms. McMaster finished a distant third in the 2010 GOP primary for Governor which was won by Haley, but prevailed in a four way primary and subsequent runoff in 2014 for Lt. Governor, which by then was in a state where the R label alone was perhaps enough to win.

McMaster still had Gubernatorial ambitions, as he approached his 70s, but was considered unlikely to be able to win a primary for the top job. A long-time establishment figure, some eyebrows were raised when he was among the first politicians in the country to endorse Donald Trump for President. This worked out in his favor though as Trump won what was once an unthinkable victory in the First in the South Presidential primaries ,and then of course the nomination and White House itself. Bringing Nikki Haley into the Administration was a way to get her out of the way and reward McMaster by making him Governor, and giving him a heads up for the nomination in 2018, where he would run with Trump's endorsement.

There have been some rough waters for the new Governor though, as he has been somewhat connected to a corruption probe of associates. Many in the Republican Party resented his ascent to the top job believing he was an out of favor professional politician that could be defeated. Despite his claim to be among the original Trump-backers, most of his primary opponents, going back against previous statements in some cases, also stressed their support for Trump.

The June primary saw McMaster face four opponents, which all but assured that a runoff election two weeks later would be needed. For the first time, South Carolina Gubernatorial candidates picked a running-mate for Lt. Governor who ran alongside them in the primary as one ticket. McMaster's choice was businesswoman Paula Evette. He would need a new Lt. Governor because both the incumbent one, who had succeeded McMaster in the post, as well as the one who had held the job (technically as a Democrat) right before McMaster were running against him in the GOP primary. Neither of them reached double digits in the voting though.

Instead, the third place finisher with 21 percent of the vote was former state Health and Environmental Control Director Catherine Templeton who tried to change her image from a mainstream pro-business GOP establishment type, to an ardent defender of "Southern heritage" and Confederate symbols.

This initial voting saw McMaster hit 42 percent, but he would still have to contend with his closest opponent, who came in at 28 percent. Businessman and former Marine captain John Warren was a newcomer to politics at age 39, but he attracted significant support from conservatives who liked his outsider approach. In many ways, his appeal was similar to that first had by Nikki Haley in her first Gubernatorial primary.

After the first round of voting, both fourth place finisher, Lt. Governor Kevin Bryant and third place finisher Catherine Templeton endorsed the challenger Warren over McMaster. However, the Governor had the name advantage of incumbency and the support of Donald Trump who flew to the state to do a rally and McMaster prevailed in the runoff by a surprisingly close 54-46 spread.

Perhaps getting less attention was the primary for the Democrats, which saw three candidates, and their respective running-mates competing. This would not need to go to a runoff as State Representative James Smith, a 50 year old lawyer and Afghan War veteran easily won with 62 percent over two opponents who were seemingly to his left. Businessman and non-profit executive Phil Noble took 11 percent and attorney Marguerite Willis took 28 percent. While both of the defeated primary candidates had selected African-American running-mates of the gender opposite to them, Smith chose fellow State Representative Mandy Powers Norrell, a white woman. Nonetheless, several prominent African-American Democrats had endorsed the all-white frontrunning ticket.

Questions surrounding McMaster's ethics and Trump's proposal to allow off-shore drilling are issues in this general election. Continued controversy surrounding the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the state Capitol, when Haley was Governor, is also something that may not go away for a while. The fact is that the Democrats have nominated in James Smith (despite his somewhat bland name), a politically attractive figure with a strong biography. Republicans in the state also seem to not be in love with their standard bearer.

In past cycles, this would be a real contest, but in this cycle, in this state, it may fall well-short. While a poll conducted for the Smith campaign shows an extremely close race, a GOP poll shows a modest double digit lead for McMaster. The bottom line is that South Carolina is still a very red state, even if there might be high black turnout. McMaster will win the Governorship on his own accord, barring a major upset, but it will probably only be by low double-digits, if even that.

Gubernatorial Races predicted thus far:

15 D  (2 Safe, 3 Likely,  7 Leans, 3 Tossup) 
15 R   (2 Safe, 6 Likely, 5 Leans, 2 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

22 D (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 3 Likely, 7 Leans, 3 Tossup)
22 R (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 6 Likely, 5 Leans, 2 Tossup)


At 2:58 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

McMaster wins easily by double digits & again in 2022 (if he's interested), which would total close to 10 years in office.


Post a Comment

<< Home