Polls shows GOP runoff race for SC governor tightening

Dueling polls released Friday show a tightening Republican race for S.C. governor — albeit with starkly different results.

New polling numbers released by John Warren's campaign suggest a close runoff race Tuesday between the Greenville businessman and S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster for the GOP nomination.

The polling — paid for by Warren's campaign and weighted to survey more voters in the GOP voter-rich Upstate, Warren's base of support — shows the Greenville businessman leading McMaster 46 percent to 42 percent. However, that lead is within the poll's margin of error.

Meanwhile, new polling from the Atlanta-based Trafalgar Group found McMaster leading.

McMaster has 47 percent support, with another 6.6 percent of GOP voters "leaning" or inclined to vote for the Richland Republican. Trafalgar said Warren was at 31.4 percent support, with another 5.8 percent leaning his way.

Combine the supporters with the leaners and McMaster leads Warren 53.6 to 37.2 About 9 percent of those polled refused to answer or were undecided, Trafalgar said.

Previously, Trafalgar's poll showed McMaster with more than 53 percent support and with another 6 percent "leaning" his way.

The latest Trafalgar poll, conducted Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, surveyed 1,650 likely GOP voters across the state via email, cellphone and landline.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points and a 95 percent confidence level. It also was weighted based on the geographic distribution of GOP voters who voted in recent statewide primaries. That means 38 percent of the South Carolinians surveyed came from the Upstate, where Warren is from.

The Warren campaign's poll was done by Fabrizio, Lee and Associates, the same polling firm used by Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

It surveyed 500 likely GOP voters across the state via cellphone and landline Tuesday and Wednesday. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.38 percentage points and a 95 percent confidence level, and also was weighted toward the Upstate.

Walter Whetsell, president of Benchmark Research of Lexington, who has been tracking the race for the Warren campaign, said the difference between the two polls comes down to sampling and predicted turnout.

"Any poll presuming a 14-point McMaster lead presumes a turnout at 450,000 or 500,000 (voters)," Whetsell said. "A poll that presumes it tighter with Warren in the lead is surmising this race is going to be in the 270,000 to 300,000 range in turnout."

If history is any indication, Whetsell predicts turnout for Tuesday's runoff will be down 20 percent from the June 12 primary.

Tom Barton: 803-771-8304, @tjbarton83