South Carolina Likely to Stay Firmly in Republican Hands

Wednesday, 11 Jun 2014 12:25 PM

By John Gizzi

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With the results in from South Carolina's primaries on Tuesday, signs are strong that no Democratic upsets are lurking in the fall and that the Palmetto State will continue on as a safe Republican bastion.

"Democrats have a very unpopular president and they have no turnout mechanism," former state Republican Chairman Katon Dawson told Newsmax. "In '08, they had their largest-ever turnout of voters, but so did Republicans and we won the largest share of the total vote."

Dawson said Republican strength has since been enhanced because "we are more conservative and we have had no brutal primaries recently."

Former Rep. John Napier, a South Carolina Republican, told Newsmax that a "significant influx of Republican voters, particularly in Hilton Head and Greenville, is making the state redder."

The Republican governor and two U.S. senators all secured nominations handily on Tuesday, with Sen. Lindsey Graham rolling up 56 percent of the vote over six opponents. After taking positions from supporting immigration reform to voting to confirm Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, Graham had been a particular irritant to tea partiers.

Still, no major elected official would take on the two-term senator, who is known for keeping in touch with constituents and listening to critics within his own party.

"He has worked relentlessly and intensely — just plain hard work," Napier said of Graham.

Graham is rated a cinch for re-election over Democratic state Sen. Brad Hutto.

When South Carolinians go to the polls Nov. 4, they also will cast ballots for their other Senate seat. GOP Sen. Tim Scott easily won his primary and will try to win the remaining two years of the unexpired term after he was appointed to replace Jim DeMint in 2013. DeMint resigned the Senate to become president of the Heritage Foundation.

Scott, a tea party favorite and the lone black in the Senate, is a strong favorite over Richland County Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson.

Gov. Nikki Haley has a high national profile as her state's first woman governor and one of two Indian-American governors in the nation. After a grueling primary in 2010 where she was the upset winner, Haley won a tighter-than-usual fall race against the Democratic nominee, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen. Haley ran unopposed in Tuesday's primary but several observers expect another close race in their rematch in November.

"I do not believe Gov. Haley is that vulnerable," Napier said. "I believe she will win handily on her platform of economic development. If there is vulnerability, it derives from her cabinet appointments, several of which have not turned out well."

A just-completed Rasmussen Poll showed that among likely voters statewide, Haley defeats Sheheen by a margin of 52 percent to 37 percent.

In the GOP primary for the lieutenant governor post, former state Attorney General Henry McMaster topped a three-candidate field but was headed to a runoff. Four years ago, McMaster was one of the first attorneys general in the nation to file suit against Obamacare.

In the crowded race for state superintendent of education, former state Rep. Molly Mitchell Spearman was the top vote-getter. But she will face a runoff with Sally Atwater, a vigorous opponent of Common Core and widow of the late Republican National Chairman Lee Atwater.

"In South Carolina, you see the face of tomorrow — Nikki Haley, an Indian-American; Tim Scott, a black; and Lindsey Graham," said Dawson. "They are fresh faces, but they happen to agree on individual freedom and what conservatism means."

Dawson noted there are signs that Democrats may have new worries stemming from the president's recent release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by the Taliban in return for five terrorist prisoners in Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

Recalling how he picks up political trends over breakfast at Lizard's Thicket Restaurant in Columbia, Dawson said, "The waitress is really mad at Obama. She said she wouldn't buy a used car from him because he doesn't know what a deal is!"

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.


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