Turning away from the presidential endorsement to the endorsements that we here on the board actually spend more of our staff time on — the state legislative and county races — this may not be a good year for our endorsees.
Now mind you, "not… a good year" is a relative thing. Typically, close to 75 percent of the people we endorse in general elections in South Carolina win. A "bad" year for our endorsees is 50 percent. There is a chance that this year, it may be even lower than that.
I should pause at this point to say, as I always do, that our endorsements aren’t about naming the person we think WILL win, but the person we think SHOULD win. You might say, "Duh!," but the fact is that a lot of people don’t seem to understand that. How else does one explain the people who say, when one of our endorsees loses, that we got it "wrong?"
But that doesn’t keep me from thinking about whether someone is going to win or not. I’m usually conscious of a candidate’s chances as we’re making the decision, and we tend to know when we’re backing a Don Quixote and when we’re not.
But the other day Cindi said something I hadn’t thought of — that we may be backing more losers than winners this time. That was based on the endorsements we had decided on up until that point (we’ve decided some more since then). If so, so be it. That won’t change our decisions. But I thought I’d share the thought with y’all.
Consider the ones we’ve done so far:
- Jim Nelson — LIKELY TO LOSE — Conventional wisdom heavily favors the incumbent, Chip Huggins, in House District 85. This is the Irmo area, and Rep. Huggins is the Republican. Of course, the Irmese are quirky and can surprise you. Also, a Democrat could benefit from the Obama Effect, which is expected to pull up down-ballot Democrats even though Obama will lose the state himself. But not a Democrat who, like Mr. Nelson, is given to going up to strangers and telling them he thinks his taxes are too low. Not in this district.
- Michael Koska — LIKELY TO LOSE — There is no incumbent in this race, which should make it more of a toss-up. But Mr. Koska’s opponent in House District 77 is the closest thing you’ll find to an incumbent — Richland County Council Chairman Joe McEachern. Mr. McEachern is a strong candidate whom we’ve endorsed multiple times, including in the primary for this seat. Add to that the fact that Mr. Koska is a little-known white Republican in a district long held by a black Democrat (John Scott), and the usual math of elections in South Carolina runs against him. Mr. Koska has the ability to win over voters who sit down and listen to him at length as we did, but few voters ever do that. No, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Mr. Koska will pull this off, but he would need greater-than-usual help from his national ticket to do so, and that’s just not happening this year.
- Nikki Haley — ALMOST CERTAIN TO WIN. I could have told you before our interviews that Rep. Haley would hold on to her District 87 House seat. After talking to her and opponent Ed Gomez, it was a dead certainty. Yes, the McCain-Palin ticket may be imploding, but not so much as to deny re-election to this highly engaging Republican incumbent, not in Lexington County.
- Anton Gunn — DON’T KNOW, although I suspect GUNN HAS THE EDGE — What makes this one uncertain for the better-known and stronger candidate — Mr. Gunn — is that this has been a Republican district. In fact, Democrat Gunn lost to the incumbent, Bill Cotty, two years ago. But Mr. Cotty isn’t running, and the district has been evolving. Most of all in Mr. Gunn’s favor is the fact that if anybody is going to benefit from the Obama Effect, it would be him. He was Obama’s state political director. So I think he has the edge, but it’s just impossible to know without polling info, which I haven’t seen. All we know for sure is that we prefer Mr. Gunn to his opponent, David Herndon.
As always, you can look at all our endorsements from this year (going all the way back to the presidential primaries in January), plus columns related to endorsements, on this Web page.