The Republican candidates for S.C. governor have one last debate in which to prove their mettle ahead of next week’s June 12 GOP primary.
With the race winding down, polls show Mount Pleasant attorney Catherine Templeton and Greenville businessman John Warren are neck and neck for second place. That runner-up spot could prove to be critical, with the five-way race likely to go to a runoff against Gov. Henry McMaster, the front-runner.
Here are three ways the candidates can make an impression Tuesday night at the S.C. ETV debate at the University of South Carolina:
1. Differentiate yourself. The five Republican candidates for governor espouse roughly identical views on major GOP issues — from abortion to gun rights to taxes. To gain traction, experts say, the candidates must show how they differ.
One option is to prove you mean what you say while your opponents are just lifting their fingers to the political winds. Another is to propose a bold solution to a key issue.
To sum it up, “convince me that it should be you in the runoff,” said University of South Carolina political science professor Robert Oldendick.
For Templeton and Warren
2. Outshine your opponent for a runoff spot. Templeton and Warren have become chippy in the race for second, but their attacks haven’t yet spilled over into the debates. That could change Tuesday night, as both candidates will want to elevate themselves to the detriment of the other.
But they can’t forget to target McMaster, who would prefer to stay above the fray and coast to a No. 1 finish, if not an outright primary win. To force a runoff, Templeton and Warren must make the case that McMaster’s status quo isn’t working.
3. Don’t be caught flat-footed; play offense. McMaster’s poll numbers have faded as Templeton and Warren have gained name recognition with statewide TV ads.
To stop the slippage, it’s important that McMaster lay out his own vision for the state and show voters that South Carolina is better off in his more experienced hands.
"The economy is going fairly well. We’re moving in a good direction. People are moving to South Carolina,” said College of Charleston political scientist Gibbs Knotts. “He can effectively make that argument. That’s the challenge. One of the reason the incumbents have the advantage is that the challengers have to make a case to remove someone.”