Although they didn't vote in anywhere near record numbers (turnout was down 9% from the previous off-year election), 380,000 South Carolinians nonetheless sent more than their fair share of shock waves across the state's political landscape in yesterday's primary elections.
So ... now that your election night euphoria (or hangover) is starting to wear off, FITS would like to welcome you to the following new political realities:
1. Gov. Mark Sanford is in Serious Trouble
We love the gov, but there is no way to spin Sanford's 65% showing against a primary opponent he refused to even acknowledge as anything other than a stunning underachievement. The myth of Sanford's populist invincibility has been shattered, and what should have been a November cakewalk will now be a pitched battle for the future of our state. Sanford isn't down for the count by any stretch of the imagination, but Lovelace's surprise punch has severely wounded him.
2. Stick a fork in Warren Tompkins ...
... cause he's done. We wrote in April about the impending decline of this once-vaunted political strategist and many of you laughed. Well, after the abysmal performances of highly-funded statewide candidates Bob Staton and Greg Ryberg last night, don't say we never learned you nothin'. Having already been turned down by numerous 2008 Presidential contenders, Tompkins double-up on double-digit thrashings at the hands of Karen Floyd and Thomas Ravenel. Sure his testosterone-happy lackeys will point to a couple of State House races they won, but the bottom line is if you're looking to win at the state level this guy is now the last consultant you'd call.
3. The School Choice Litmus Test
While it was a mediocre night on the whole for school choice backers like SCRG, Club for Growth and the newly-formed Conservatives in Action, the school choice issue actually took quantum steps forward last night with Karen Floyd's victory. It's ironic, really. SCRG and the other groups focused on making the contested House races more about incumbent spending than school choice and their slate of candidates ended up underperforming. On the other hand, the media makes Floyd's race a referendum on school choice despite the candidate's initial reluctance to be staked out on the issue and she ends up beating Bob Staton like he stole something.
4. Thomas Ravenel is Your Next Treasurer
Most polls heading into the 4-way GOP Treasurer's primary had Charleston businessman Thomas Ravenel finishing no higher than the mid-30's. Well, he ended up with more than 48% of the vote and almost won the GOP nod without a runoff. Of course, State Senator Greg Ryberg has seen the handwriting on the wall and already conceded the nomination to Ravenel. Both names will still be on the ballot, but Thomas Ravenel is your GOP nominee and barring a miraculous debate performance from Trav Robertson, your next Treasurer.
Give credit where credit is due. We've dogged on consultant Rod Shealy numerous times in the past but he was without question the big winner last night among South Carolina's top-tier political consultants. Whether it was Lovelace's impressive showing against the governor, the T-Rav juggernaut in the Treasurer's race or keeping his cornerstone client Andre Bauer in the Lieutenant Governor's runoff, Shealy probably went to bed last night a happy man.