Will Lindsey Graham avoid a runoff? That’s the key question.
After a lot of speculation and angst by conservative voters in South Carolina, today is Judgment Day for Lindsey Graham.
Over the past year, SC grassroots activists have attempted to organize with the goal of defeating Graham in his re-election bid. The problem always came back to the lack of a serious challenger to the incumbent Senator.
Graham was first elected to Congress in the Republican Wave of 1994. But the voters who watched O.J. Simpson huddled in the back of his white Bronco 20 years ago are not the demographic force of the electorate today. South Carolina has a very eclectic mix of Republican voters: Establishment/old school, Tea Party patriot grassroots groups, Christian conservatives and a libertarian streak that gave Ron Paul some hope in the 2012 South Carolina primary.
Unlike the McDaniel/Cochran Senate race in Mississippi, none of these odd fellows in S.C. were able to coalesce behind a single candidate to go up against Graham.
However, South Carolina is very interesting as it is one of the few states left that requires a 50%-plus-one vote in order to avoid a runoff election. Most runoff states have a lower threshold of 40%.
The main competitors to Graham are S.C. State Senator Lee Bright from the Greenville-Spartanburg area of Upstate South Carolina. Bright was well-postioned in the crowded field as the only elected official with some statewide name recognition to challenge Lindsey Graham. Bright also brought together a number of the numerous Tea Party and patriot grassroots groups throughout the state. However, he never seemed to be able to gain momentum statewide or make a compelling case as to why he was a good alternative to Graham. Bright struggled with fundraising throughout the contest, but recent polls suggest he may finish in second place to Graham in voting today.
Nancy Mace is perhaps the ultimate anti-Lindsey Graham candidate. Not only is she the only female in the contest, she positions herself as the “Mom running for Congress” alternative to Graham, the consummate beltway insider. Mace received early positive press when she announced her challenge to Graham early in 2013. Mace was among the first women to be admitted to the prestigious Citadel Military College and graduated as the first woman from The Citadel’s Corps of Cadets in 1999 with magna cum laude honors. Mace seemed to be a slow build in the Senate race. She started with a lot of positive press, then seemed to fade a bit. In the last few weeks of the race, Mace went up with limited TV and radio ads, but also seemed to be gaining grassroots support among those serious anti-Graham voters who aren’t impressed with Lee Bright.
Also entering the race with a lot of splash earlier this year was Det Bowers, a popular pastor in Columbia, S.C. Bowers, who raised a lot of money when he jumped into the race, used to be a Democrat and chaired the 1988 Dukakis for President campaign. Sources familiar with the campaign say he quickly raised $2 million in the first quarter of 2014. However, it is not apparent to voters in the Palmetto State where that money went. There haven’t been an TV ads in the Upstate SC (Charlotte, NC TV market) or on any local radio. Campaign signs for Bowers are also nowhere to be found. He doesn’t seem to have caught fire despite the aggressive fundraising campaign.
Orangeburg, S.C. lawyer Bill Connor was another late arrival to the race. Connor served in the U.S. Army as a as a Regular Army Infantry Officer for over a decade and then volunteered to return to deployment in Afghanistan in 2007. Many observers opined that Connor might have been able to cut into Graham’s natural base of military voters’ and their families with his impressive background. It doesn’t appear he was able to break out of the pack.
Finally there’s Richard Cash, a successful businessman from Anderson County, who has been running against Graham longer than any of the other candidates. Cash has bankrolled much of his own campaign and has been seen at every campaign event, large and small, across South Carolina for the better part of the last 18 months.
There is another, perhaps more important historic race for the other U.S. Senate seat from South Carolina. For the first time since Reconstruction, South Carolina Republicans will nominate an African-American to the U.S. Senate. Incumbent U.S. Sen. Tim Scott — nominated by Gov. Haley to fill the unexpired term of former Senator Jim DeMint — faces the voters statewide for the first time today.
In the South Carolina Governor’s race, incumbent Republican Nikki Haley is unopposed in the primary and will face Democratic opponent State Sen. Vincent Sheheen in the November election.
The four-way GOP race for lieutenant governor is a crowded one. Former state party chairman Henry McMaster and Mike Campbell, the son of the popular late South Carolina Gov. Carroll Campbell are battling for the GOP nod. The winner of Tuesday’s Republican primary faces Democratic state Rep. Bakari Sellers in November.
The down ballot races include 12 candidates running for Superintendent of Schools in which the Common Core curriculum has been front and center as an issue.
The polls in South Carolina close at 7:00PM Eastern Time tonight. Everyone will be focused on the South Carolina Senate primary to see if Graham’s challengers can hold him below 50%.
The key parts of the state to watch for returns are York County, Greenville and Spartanburg Counties and Charleston County. York is one of the most conservative counties in the state which brought Newt Gingrich his victory in the 2012 GOP Presidential Primary. Bright is from Greenville/Spartanburg but that is also Graham’s natural base of votes. So holding Graham down in that area could be key to a potential runoff. Finally, Graham cannot win without a large vote total coming out of Charleston — another strong base of Graham support. With Mace from that area, it will be interesting to see how she performs in a typical Graham stronghold.DONATE
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