Elections

McMaster builds momentum in SC race while Warren tries to counterpunch Trump support

"He is a magnificent man" McMaster and Warren fight over who is more like Donald Trump

Gov. Henry McMaster and candidate John Warren argued over who was most like Donald Trump during the runoff debates June 20.
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Gov. Henry McMaster and candidate John Warren argued over who was most like Donald Trump during the runoff debates June 20.

One was folksy, relaxed and jovial. The other wooden and combative.

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster emerged from Wednesday night's final debate before next week's GOP runoff with momentum heading into the final days of the primary campaign, said College of Charleston political scientist Gibbs Knotts.

Meanwhile, Greenville businessman John Warren finds himself with ground to make up as McMaster's campaign is poised to receive a major boost from President Donald Trump, just hours before polls open on Tuesday.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are set to make campaign stops for McMaster in the state Saturday and Monday. Meanwhile, Warren welcomed Phil Robertson of "Duck Dynasty" fame to Greenville on Thursday.

During Wednesday's debate, Warren took swipes at McMaster over taxes, education, road funding, State House corruption, support for Trump and the V.C. Summer nuclear fiasco.

"He (Warren) really needed to kind of land some knockout blows, and I didn’t really see him do anything like that," Knotts said. "McMaster had the better night last night."

McMaster, Knotts said, made a persuasive case for the importance of experience and showed an understanding of how to get things accomplished in a strong legislative state.

And while Warren says he is most like Trump — a self-made businessman billed as a political outsider promising government reforms — that argument is less persuasive with Trump’s endorsement of McMaster, Knotts said.

Trump has retained strong support among S.C. GOP voters.

Both McMaster and Warren took swings through the Upstate on Thursday.

McMaster and running mate Pamela Evette will visit Rock Hill, Florence, Conway and Pawleys Island on Friday.

"He's taking his message to every corner of the state," said campaign spokesperson Caroline Anderegg. "It’s pretty apparent that it worked last time and caused a huge momentum in the final stretch … and I think we’ll see that again.

"Things are getting better and companies are coming here … and he’s doing many of the same things Trump has been doing on the national level. We need someone with experienced, proven conservative leadership in this role."

Warren also stopped in Anderson and Seneca on Thursday, before appearing with reality TV star Robertson in Greenville.

"Last night’s debate served to highlight the striking difference between the message of a true conservative outsider and that of a career politician," said campaign spokeswoman Laura Beth Kirsop. "A new conservative coalition is rising up in support of John Warren because South Carolina is ready for a true conservative outsider to clean up corruption, hold state government accountable to the taxpayers and make our state stronger and safer."

Warren will be in Florence and Myrtle Beach on Friday, in Greenville on Saturday, and in Spartanburg and Columbia on Sunday, Kirsop said.

She did not respond to questions about how Warren plans to counter the media attention McMaster will receive with Trump's visit Monday.

A political action committee opposing McMaster’s election launched a new ad Thursday, slamming McMaster for being a career politician and for his former ties to political consultant Richard Quinn, who was indicted in the State House public corruption probe.

The ad by the Palmetto Prosperity PAC – entitled “Change The Tune” – also references McMaster's receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars from SCANA, the utility tied to the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project that so far has cost S.C. customers $2.5 billion in higher rates.

Tom Barton: 803-771-8304, @tjbarton83
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