The Campaign Spot

In South Carolina, the Statewide Candidate Beat the Local Ones

Some Republicans outside South Carolina’s First Congressional District are reacting to Mark Sanford’s first-place, runoff-securing finish in yesterday’s primary with disbelief and horror.

Robert Stacy McCain wonders how much support will be thrown behind Curtis Bostic, the other Republican candidate to qualify for the runoff.

The Sanford finish shouldn’t be that surprising. Out of 16 Republican candidates, fifteen would be considered local or regional figures, and fourteen of those had bases of support in the part of the district closer to Charleston. In short, you had a slew of regional figures running against a statewide (or arguably national) figure. The runoff will match up the best-performing regional figure against that statewide figure, a tall order for Bostic.

The short version is that Bostic needs to pick up support in the Low Country, the portion of the district in Beaufort County that includes Hilton Head Island and the slew of communities that have sprung up along Route 278.

The total turnout in yesterday’s primary was 53,657, divided among the entirety or portions of five counties: Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, and Dorchcester. (Only a tiny sliver of Colleton County is within the district.) For perspective, Charleston provided 40.9 percent of the Republican primary vote yesterday, Beaufort 22 percent, Berkeley 20.7 percent, Dorchester 15 percent, and Colleton less than one percent.

Sanford won all of those counties except Beaufort, where he won 3,570 votes to State Rep. Andy Patrick’s 3,639 votes. (Unfortunately for Patrick, he couldn’t get more than 67 votes in any other county.) Sanford’s best county was Charleston, at 40.8 percent, and his worst was Beaufort, with 29.4 percent. Eight years in the governor’s mansion help build a lot of connections, even with an embarrassing personal scandal.

Bostic did fairly well in the northern counties — 18.4 percent in Dorchester, 15.9 percent in Berkeley, 13 percent in Charleston – but he won only 8 percent in Beaufort. (He only got 6 percent in Colleton, but again the county is only nominally represented in this district; there were only 230 votes cast in that county yesterday.)

Bostic is likely to have a big financial hurdle to overcome as well. Through February 27, Bostic raised $76,510 and spent $117,072 on his House bid; in that same period, Sanford raised $334,397 and spent $90,342.

Democrats are likely to convince themselves that Elizabeth Colbert-Busch will have a real shot against Sanford, by bringing out women voters and hammering Sanford on his Argentinian trip. But Teddy Turner pursued Sanford with absolutely brutal ads, and we see how effective that turned out in the primary. And the district is a very GOP-leaning one; yesterday, 3.2 Republicans voted for every Democrat.


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