Could the race for S.C. governor be more unpredictable than we think?
For some time, the outlines of the 2018 election favored incumbent Gov. Henry McMaster in the Republican primary, followed by Catherine Templeton, based on her fundraising totals. Pulling up the rear were Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant and former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill. That ranking was confirmed by a Mason-Dixon poll of Republican primary voters in December.
No comparable polling had been done in the Democratic race. But state Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, has been the leader in party endorsements over Charleston businessman Phil Noble.
A poll released Thursday shows McMaster still leading the GOP pack at 40 percent.
But Bryant, the socially conservative former state senator from Anderson, is polling in second at 11 percent, ahead of former DHEC director Templeton with 8 percent, according to Atlanta-based pollster Trafalgar Group.
McGill had 3 percent support, while 10 percent of those surveyed preferred another candidate and 28 percent were undecided.
On the Democratic side, Trafalgar found Noble on top — with 25 percent support to Smith’s 20.4 percent, with 20.6 percent answering “someone else” and 33.5 percent undecided.
Noble quickly touted the poll’s results as proof that his bid can make waves against what he has called the “dull and boring, Republican-style campaign” that he says S.C. Democrats usually run.
“It’s early, but what I’m saying about reforming a corrupt and broken system is getting out. People are hearing what I’m about and they’re responding,” Noble said. “I think it’s all distractions to talk about this mayor or that party official or money, when the race is all about big change and real reform.”
Smith spokesman Isaiah Nelson said the poll numbers don’t reflect the energy the Smith campaign has seen since its Columbia kickoff, which drew 600 people.
“People of all parties are ready for a leader who will make the best decisions for the state of South Carolina, not his political future,” Nelson said.
The results may seem counter-intuitive, but Trafalgar was credited with predicting Donald Trump’s surprise 2016 election victory.
Not everyone was surprised.
“This survey confirms what we expected,” says Robert Cahaly, Trafalgar’s pollster and senior strategist.
“The governor is well ahead of his primary opponents who are in a battle for second place and the Democrat primary is a toss up with uncertainty about who the final candidates will be,” Cahaly said in a statement released with the poll results.
The poll claims a large sample size — 2,223. It was conducted over the course of a month, from Nov. 29 to Dec. 30, with a 3.7 percent response rate. The survey used a mix of automated responses, live and online polling, and weighted respondents based on age, race, gender and region of the state.
The poll was conducted for the Convention of States Action, a group that wants to call a convention to propose new amendments to the U.S. Constitution. A proposal calling for such a convention currently is before the S.C. Legislature, and former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina now is acting as a senior adviser to the national project.
The “initial” reaction of poll respondents to a constitutional convention was 44 percent in favor and 24 percent opposed, with roughly a third undecided.
After being told the convention would “limit federal spending, limit federal power, and establish term limits for members of Congress and/or federal judges,” the poll reported 65 percent said they favored a convention and 19 percent opposed.
Trump commission didn’t see S.C. voter data
Just days after the Buzz highlighted the saga of South Carolina’s voter data and President Donald Trump’s voter fraud panel as one of the wilder political stories of 2017, the presidential commission shut its doors.
The White House said Wednesday the commission would cease operations after several states refused to turn over voter information to the panel, including South Carolina.
In July, state election officials said S.C. law didn’t allow them to release the information out of state. However, state GOP chairman Drew McKissick said he would give the information to the panel.
Both political parties routinely collect the state’s voter lists after each election to do future outreach, so party officials had the information available. But, while the S.C. GOP offered to turn the voter list over to Trump’s commission, it never heard back before the commission folded, Buzz’s source says.
Even before it closed, the commission quickly ground to a halt under the weight of legal challenges and dissension among its members about its activities.
The commission originally was established to combat voter fraud after Trump claimed, without evidence, that 3 million people voted illegally in the 2016 election.