The calendar says June, but for Republican Senate candidates in South Carolina and Utah, it seems like November.
Party rivals in the heavily Republican states square off Tuesday in primary run-off elections, and the winners are likely to sail to victory in the general election.
In South Carolina, state Rep. Nikki Haley won 49 percent of the vote in the four-candidate June 8 primary, just shy of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. Rep. J. Gresham Barrett came in second with 22 percent of the vote. Despite her enormous primary advantage, Mrs. Haley isn't necessarily a shoo-in for the runoff. Mr. Barrett has outraised her since the primary, tapping his connections with the business community and Washington-area political fundraisers, according to The State newspaper.
Mr. Barrett raised $299,225 in that period, while Mrs. Haley collected $224,271, mainly from smaller donors. Mr. Barrett also has taken advantage of unease within GOP ranks with Mrs. Haley's libertarian leanings and ties to disgraced Gov. Mark Sanford, who is stepping down after admitting to an extramarital affair. Both candidates are favored in the general election against Democratic nominee Vincent Sheheen.
A Rasmussen Reports survey taken June 10, shortly after the primary, found Mrs. Haley besting Mr. Sheheen 55 to 34 percent in a hypothetical matchup, while Mr. Barrett led Mr. Sheheen by 46 to 38 percent.
In Utah, Republican businessman Tim Bridgewater won 57 percent of the delegate vote at the state Republican Party Convention. That wasn't enough to avoid a run-off with attorney Mike Lee, who was supported by 43 percent of the delegates.
A KSL/Deseret News poll released Friday showed Mr. Bridgewater besting Mr. Lee by a margin of 42 to 33 percentage points. Still, pollster Dan Jones noted that 25 percent of those surveyed were still undecided, an unusually high number so close to the election."In the old vernacular, this is a horse race," Mr. Jones told the Deseret News.
The campaign's main theme has been that of lawyer versus businessman. The Bridgewater camp argues that the Senate doesn't need another lawyer like Mr. Lee, a former assistant U.S. attorney and counsel to Gov. Jon Huntsman.
"For too long, Washington has been run by lawyers and political insiders," said one Bridgewater radio ad. "We don't need another lawyer in the Senate. It's time to run government more like a business."
The Lee camp has fired back by accusing Mr. Bridgewater of relying on government earmarks and stimulus funding for his business interests.
"Tim likes to talk about government overreach, but his businesses are all built on government money," said Lee spokesman Boyd Matheson. One wild card lies with Sen. Robert F. Bennett, the Republican incumbent who failed to receive enough votes at the party convention to win a slot on the runoff ballot. Mr. Bennett endorsed Mr. Bridgewater after rejecting the idea of running as a write-in candidate. Mr. Bennett said Mr. Bridgewater met with him personally after the convention, while Mr. Lee reached out through surrogates but did not call the senator himself.
"I just feel a little closer personally to Bridgewater," Mr. Bennett said on Doug Wright's radio show on KSL-AM in Salt Lake City. "He, like me, is a businessman ... it helps to have someone who knows how jobs are created."
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