James wins it all! And that’s just the start! These may be the best primary results I’ve ever seen in SC, all around!

I dropped by Smith HQ this afternoon and the front room was empty -- everybody was out working. And they did a great job!

I dropped by Smith HQ this afternoon and the front room was empty — everybody was out working. And they did a great job!

Don’t know what to say, except I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. In fact, I don’t remember a primary election EVER when I was so pleased with the results across the board. By my standards, everything clicked just right:

  • James Smith wins it all in a landslide! 62 percent with 75 percent reporting! No runoff or other folderol! It turns out that Democratic voters (and smart people who crossed over to vote for James) in South Carolina aren’t nuts after all, despite those anxiety-causing polls. On to November!
  • Catherine Templeton is out of it! So I guess Republicans aren’t nuts, either. Perhaps they’re beginning to recover from their malady of 2016.
  • A weakened McMaster came out on top, but faces a runoff against an unremarkable unknown most of us still don’t know (which is way better than being in a runoff with the “buzzsaw”). Which just couldn’t bode better for James in the fall — and a guy with a D after his name needs EVERY break he can get! Which is great news for South Carolina.
  • Micah Caskey seems to be cruising to a big win, so I need not feel guilty for not having personally helped him by voting in his primary. Way to go, Micah (it was that sign in my yard that did it)!
  • Byron Gipson seems to be easily beating Dan Johnson, so I worried about that unnecessarily, too. Maybe. It’s not all in yet by a long shot…

Finally, an actual great day for South Carolina at the ballot boxes…


87 thoughts on “James wins it all! And that’s just the start! These may be the best primary results I’ve ever seen in SC, all around!

  1. Mike F.

    Mark Sanford’s trouble indicates that the malady of 2016 has become chronic.
    And Templeton was hurt by the ad in which Trump says “fired” repeatedly.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Always makin’ with the negative waves, Moriarty! Next you’ll bring up Parnell (and not the one from Joyce’s “Ivy Day in the Committee Room.” That one was never going to end well…

    2. Mark Stewart

      Sanford had two problems. Trump was only the minor one. He previously won reelection on a fluke. The voters finally wised up and just wanted someone else in office representing them.

      Anyone who campaigns on blind support for Trump – even beyond support for the President – doesn’t deserve to win national office; representing anyone. I might guess this district has moved closer to being a possible GOP upset seat in November…

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    Aside from my happiness over who won, it’s just wonderful to see the unremitting nastiness of the Noble, Willis and Templeton campaigns rejected!

  3. Richard

    Who didn’t think Smith would win?

    The only question I saw is who McMaster would have a run off with.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “Who didn’t think Smith would win?”

      See, that’s conventional wisdom. That’s what ANYBODY who knows anything would have predicted last year when James announced. It was ridiculous to consider anyone seriously challenging him in the primary.

      But then came poll after poll showing Phil Noble of all people (who in the end came in a distant third) running neck-and-neck with him, and a huge number of undecideds. And the sensible person tells himself, “No WAY that’s right,” but then he remembers Alvin Greene, and reflects that this is the same set of voters.

      And then, when so many people thought James got hurt by the snarling nastiness in the last debate, you worry because that’s when undecideds are making up their minds.

      But in the end, yeah, what happened is exactly what I would have predicted, confidently, last year. But I had reason to be nervous, and I was, because I cared so much about the outcome.

      I should have broken the rules and just trusted my own impressions last week during the debate. To ME, Noble and Willis were so unreservedly negative and off-putting, I didn’t see how anyone could possibly consider voting for them. I figured people would go out of their way to vote against people like that.

      Other people insisted they damaged Smith. But I guess my impression was the right one; I should have trusted it more…

  4. Brad Warthen

    ‪It appears virtually all the results are in, and I can finally congratulate Richland County voters on utterly rejecting Dan Johnson and his bad craziness. Nice going over there, y’all! @BryanCaskey @TheDouglyTruth ‬

  5. Barry

    Except Lee Bright is in a run off for a USHouse sear. Anyone voting for that guy has a problem.

    Also saw where Corey Stewart won the Republican Senate nomination in Virginia. The guy is a racist. Thankfully Tim Kaine will beat him in what is now basically a Democratic State.

    1. Mark Stewart

      Lee Bright in Congress is a bizarre concept. Lee Bright in anything deliberative is a bizarre concept, actually.

      This primary race was yet another example of the crazy candidate slipping through when the more “centrist” votes are split among other candidates. Still, its not the candidates’ fault – this is all on the voters. Every time.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Yeah, but give the voters a break, just for the moment. For the most part, they came through beautifully yesterday. I’m quite proud of them. Give me a moment and I may even break out with an ode to the Wisdom of Crowds.

        And I had really been losing faith in them lately.

        If voters are rational, James should have been a shoo-in from the start, but we kept seeing those absurd polls showing him neck-and-neck with Phil Noble of all people, and a huge percentage undecided. Which was just nuts. But how was I to dismiss that after Trump, and (perhaps more relevantly) after Alvin Greene?

        But the result — and the result in other races, from the utter rejection of Catherine Templeton to the weak support for McMaster to the easy victory of Micah and Nathan Ballentine to the crushing defeat of Dan Johnson — were exactly what you would expect in a rational universe in which most voters are careful, deliberative and discerning.

        So I had a lot of faith in democracy restored yesterday…

        1. Mark Stewart

          Okay, fine. Spartanburg will always be a hot mess so I guess it’s predictable that a loon got through there.

          If Alan Wilson looses his upcoming run-off then I will fully concur with your faith in the voters – this time around.

  6. bud

    The medicinal marijuana vote was overwhelmingly yes. This was by far the easiest vote of the day for me. It is starting to become very clear that cannabis extracts show great promise for treating seizures and other ailments. There have been many documentaries out showing it’s effectiveness anacdotally. More importantly they’re finally starting to conduct clinical trials on the effectiveness of the substance. The results are extremely promising. South Carolina needs to get on the bandwagon with this to help end the pain and suffering that can be relieved with a bit of common sense. It is just a crime to continues to ignore this any longer. If that leads to recreational use then so be it. I feel so strongly about this that If James Smith does not hit this issue hard I will not vote for him.

    1. Harry Harris

      Devil weed proponent, eh? Your last comment reminds me of the folks who refuse to support candidates who overwhelmingly represent their interests because they don’t defend gays/abortion/guns/ten commandments/unborn babies (insert issue of choice) strongly enough. Medical marijuana is hardly important enough to countenance extending McMaster’s tenure another day.

      1. bud

        It’s more than just a single issue vote. Smith really needs to do something bold. This milqutoast campaign suggests a man who is weak and timid. Not good qualities. The Dem voters strongly support this so he can show his base a bit of political courage. He loses by 10 if he continues on this path even in a strong year for Democrats. Plus he might attract some libertarian thinking voters.

        1. Bob Amundson

          Sit down with James, look him eye-to-eye, and then perhaps your comment “a man who is weak and timid” will carry some weight with me. And bud, I much more often agree with you than disagree with you.

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          So basically, to win bud’s approval, you have to go all in on an issue that, in most people’s view (definitely including mine), would rank below a 1 on a 1-100 Importance Meter.

          That would show a profound inability to set priorities, whether you’re for or against this medical marijuana thing. If his priorities were that far out of whack, he would not deserve to be governor. Nor would he deserve such a fine automobile…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            In other words, I don’t care where James stands on MM (I think maybe he’s for it, but I don’t care enough to look it up), as long as he talks about it a LOT less than he does about significant issues facing our state — such as expanding Medicaid, putting in place a rational energy policy, expanding educational opportunity, reforming our sclerotic system of government and/or generally promoting economic growth….

        3. Harry Harris

          Supporting medical marijuana is far from bold. I suspect over 70% of SC voters support medical use. Bold would be broadening the sales tax base, killing the act 388 property tax disaster, coming up with sound ways of funding for improved educator and school conditions, defending our coastline from oil interests, keeping large scale hog and chicken farms from harming the surrounding communities, and pushing utilities toward more sustainable fuels and practices. Let’s see how he does on those issues.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Right. It might have been kind of cutting-edge 20 or 30 years ago.

            And while it’s not necessarily my list, every item you mentioned is about 50 times as important…

          2. Mark Stewart

            I’m good with this listing – but “defending our coastline from oil interests”? Why?

            And would that also include being opposed to offshore wind farms? Just asking, because the best place for those in SC would be off the Myrtle Beach area…

            And add industrial farms having the “right” to suck rivers dry as they wish.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              As chairman of the Energy Party, I’m not totally on board with the folks who are reflexively against oil exploration off the coast. I’d have to study it a lot more to make up my mind.

              Back when the Energy Party was founded, I’d have probably been for it — anything to make us energy-independent. But then, we started moving toward becoming a net exporter of oil. That weakens the case for coastal exploration.

              For me, it depends on needs and circumstances, preferably of the strategic sort. We can’t let the United States be at the mercy, economically, of unstable foreign regimes. So I’m not automatically a “yes” or “no” on the matter….

      2. Richard

        “Medical marijuana is hardly important enough to countenance extending McMaster’s tenure another day.”

        Actually it isn’t, this puts into perspective where the candidate stands on a necessary bill. If they don’t support medical marijuana, then I won’t support them.

          1. Bob Amundson

            Similar to the unusual (historically) bedfellows government in Italy, a right wing/anti-establishment coalition.

          2. bud

            Just get off your high (pun intended) horse just for a second and think about this. Richard and bud are in complete agreement. What does that tell you? This is an important issue that could actually resonate across party lines. The Dems strongly support this so I suspect there are thousands like me that will be extremely disappointed if Smith remains silent. Heck I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t make this one of his centerpiece issues. No one cares more about roads than I do but I’d put those issues on the back burner to give this some much needed attention. It’s important for a number of reasons including compassion, freedom to choose, possibly tax revenues, respect for his base voters. It’s a real, tangible issue and not some esoteric thing like the 388 tax thing. People can grasp this.

            That’s why I will give this issue some weight come November. Let’s go one step further to put this in perspective. If Smith comes out and strongly supports full legalization of recreational marijuana will that change your minds about Smith or is that just a single issue situation? Sometimes you have to have your own ox gored before you can understand the thinking of others.

            1. Mark Stewart

              I agree. This issue is like abortion and then gay marriage. The tide of public opinion has silently shifted across the social spectrum.

              However, I believe it has been the prescription opioid epidemic which has turned the tide; and that’s just tragically sad for all.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Maybe not against, but does he have to be so very much FOR it? 🙂

              Reminds me of a Doonesbury cartoon from long ago. Zonker is talking about how it’s just plain politeness to take a toke when someone passes you a joint, that it would just be rude to refuse.

              Then there’s a pause, and he adds, “I’m VERY polite…”

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Yeah, I have a vague memory now of James leading on that, but since it’s such a minor issue, I didn’t recall it until you pointed it out…

  7. Scout

    Also this is the most Democratic competition I can remember Joe Wilson having in a while. There were three and now there is a runoff between two. I don’t know a whole lot about them yet. I voted for Carrigan. He seemed to have a fairly organized coherent campaign from what I could find. I did not see much in the way of signs or ads or anything from Annabelle Robertson, yet she was right there with Carrigan. How do people know about her?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I went by her website. And Phil Noble’s. Both pushed me away rather forcefully. Carrigan’s website did not, so I picked him. But I wanted to know a lot more than I did. In fact, normally under such circumstances, I would not have voted in a contest in which I knew so little about the candidates. But after voting for governor, I wanted to do SOMETHING. That’s why I voted on the meaningless issue questions…

      1. Scout

        I think we really do think alot alike. I had much the same reactions to their websites. I also googled you tube videos of them. Seeing a person speak in real time helps me form impressions too. The videos of them completely reinforced the website impressions. But I’m still curious how people that voted for her knew anything about her. I saw lots of Carrigan signs, some but fewer Black signs, and no Robertson signs – and no ads for any of them. Since it’s been my experience that seeking out information on candidates to educate yourself like you and I did is not the norm, how did these people know anything about her when they picked her. (Maybe I’m wrong – maybe they all researched and liked her). Is it just women picking her because she’s a woman (I hope not). Is it another Alvin Greene phenomenon. Or is there some other major source of info out there that I’m oblivious to (quite possible). These things intrigue me. I like to understand how people get and process information.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Hate to say it, but I’m betting most of them didn’t know more than you and I did. But while I want more info — much more — the websites are a great start. I set a lot of store by what people WANT you to think of them, and websites give you that. Whether the things they say are true or sincere or not, the fact that this is what they WANT you to think of them is revealing…

          1. Hardy

            If you aren’t on Facebook you missed most of the Annabelle Robertson campaign. It’s actually been a very nasty fight.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              I’m “on” Facebook but don’t spend much time there. People think I do, because my tweets automatically post there as well. But I don’t. My hope is always that people will follow the link and come engage the issue on the blog. Kind of bugs me when they react on Facebook instead.

              There’s some kind of weird dynamic there that makes people feel “safe” there, probably because they pick their “friends.” Me, I’ve always preferred a wider audience than that, even though I have more than 1,000 “friends” on FB (I went through a period where I just said “yes” to everybody, because in my mind it was about promoting my blog. I don’t do that anymore.)…

            2. Mark Stewart

              “If you aren’t on Facebook you missed most of the Annabelle Robertson campaign.”

              Doubtful that this is a winning political strategy.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Well, yes and no.

                I can tell you from having one foot in the marketing world that Facebook is where the people are, and it has to play a significant part in your strategy. I don’t like it myself, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve Googled a business or a nonprofit or a campaign and found the Facebook page on the first page of results, but NOT a website.

                This, to me, defies all logic, because websites are designed to maximize ease of access to essential information, and Facebook is not. I wish I could have back the hours I’ve spent trying to find BASIC, fundamental info about a candidate or entity on Facebook, and come up dry — whereas even on a weak website, I’d have found what I wanted immediately (on the About or History or Who We Are or Contact pages — the About function on Facebook is, often as not, worse than useless).

                But that’s where people go. So, much as it bugs me, a winning strategy has to include Facebook…

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  My colleagues at ADCO would give you a much more positive explanation of the importance of Facebook than I just did, because they lack my prejudice.

                  Twitter is the preferred social medium of journalists and politicos, and for once, I perfectly fit that stereotype. “People like me,” to the extent such a set exists, greatly prefer the quick purity of Twitter (even though they’ve been mucking it up lately with the 280 thing, and giving you tweets from hours ago from your favorite feeds instead of keeping it purely chronologically…)…

            3. Scout

              I was wondering if it was something like that. I am on facebook but I don’t go looking for candidate info there and nothing about her has appeared of it’s own accord in my feed. Maybe there is some critical mass of friends you have to have to get things on your page. I probably don’t have enough. It seems very random and potentially limiting as a way to reach people.

              1. Mark Stewart

                The Russian’s used Facebook to dupe the lemmings.

                Now FB has changed its algorithm to push down political advertising and messaging. Campaigns should catch on; most people want social connection, not decisiveness in their FB feeds.

                Twitter? I have no use at all for it. I get others do; but it’s a “no” for me.

                I even hate that TVs have popped up in restaurants, let alone bars (and not tuned to sports). It’s a sad commentary on the devolution of the social order – the diminution of the the friends, family and colleagues within an arms reach of us.

                1. Bart

                  “I even hate that TVs have popped up in restaurants, let alone bars (and not tuned to sports).”

                  In complete agreement on this. Took my wife to her doctor’s appointment recently. What was on the TV in the waiting room? If you guessed CNN, you are correct. And at my dentist’s office last week, the TVs in the waiting room were tuned in to Fox.

                  Went to the receptionist’s desk and politely asked if the channels could be changed to something other than the news (?). Reply was no, they couldn’t change the channels. Everyone in the waiting rooms agreed with my request and it was a very mixed race group of patients.

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  I hate the TVs in public places with a purple passion. But having a TV inflicted on you, the helpless victim, is the opposite of Twitter.

                  Twitter is an active-engagement medium, a rapid-fire conversation on the news of the moment. You choose your feeds, and you interact with the items you want to interact with, when you want to and as long as you want to.

                  TV is passive. I have never, EVER understood why anyone could stand to get news from a television. Twitter is like a newspaper page — you have a bunch of headlines available to you at once, and you choose which ones to read in what order, or in the case of Twitter (which is a newspaper page multiplied thousands of times), which links to click on to the full stories.

                  On a TV, you sit there like a rock while they tell you what they are telling you at that particular moment. Even if there’s something more interesting flowing across the chyron at the bottom of the screen, you can’t click on it. You’re stuck with whatever they’re droning on about, waiting for the next thing they choose to drone on about. It’s a HORRIBLE way to obtain information.

                  Here’s the modern equivalent of TV: When I click on what looks like a promising link, and it takes me to a video rather than to text. Video that consists of someone READING the information to me at his pace, not mine. And ultimately giving me LESS information. Show it to me, don’t read it to me. And if you have a compelling image to go with the information, share that, too. But don’t put the news in video form when there’s nothing about it that calls for video.

                  And TVs in places where I am compelled to sit and wait — doctors’ waiting rooms being the worst — are an assault on my mind. I really resent them. And I’ve yet to see anything interesting on one. I suspect they do it so that you are SO GLAD when they finally call your name…

  8. Brad Warthen Post author

    I’m savoring this from yesterday in the knowledge that we’ll never have to see one of these messages again:

    As that went out, voters were clearly saying, “Ixnay on the uzzsawbay…”

  9. Philip Mathews “Phil” Cheney

    A great opportunity for an Independent candidate IF he selects the right running mate. Two relatively unknown Democratic House members versus an unknown 39-year old running with his relatively unknown running mate against a Cheney, one of best-known political names in the US of A. It should be interesting.

  10. Bart

    Most of the results were predictable. The only mild surprise was Sanford’s defeat. But after Trump endorsed his opponent, “Trumpeteers” turned out in sufficient numbers to defeat him.

    Will probably vote for Smith in November for the obvious reasons any reasonable person will consider. I agree with medical marijuana but not public sale for recreational use. The same reason I support no smoking in most public facilities, hospitals, restaurants, etc. Anytime anything is inhaled into the lungs whether it is tobacco or marijuana smoke, it can and will damage the lungs, heart, and create a myriad of other health problems. I detest going into a business or home where smokers live and/or patronize. Spending any time in a smoke filled atmosphere leaves the odor in your clothes and on your body. Marijuana smoke is just as offensive.

    Otherwise this election will be a pick and chose to find the best candidate who will or at least promise to propose or support legislation that will help health care access, roads and schools as top priorities. Medical marijuana is not at the top of a list of 10 critical issues for me.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Or even at the BOTTOM of a top 10, for most of us.

      What you said about smokers — for me, that would be WAY above “medical marijuana.” But still far, far from a Top Ten. More of a personal pet peeve thing…

    2. Doug Ross

      Bart.. I have a relative who works in a legal medical marijuana dispensary in Massachusetts. There are all sorts of options for ingesting it that don’t require smoking. Edibles are a big part of their business. This relative gives CBD oil to her elderly father who suffered from arthritis and it worked wonders.

      If alcohol is legal, pot should be as well.

      1. Bart

        Doug, I didn’t say I was against medical marijuana, did I? I object to the recreational aspect of “smoking marijuana” for the reasons stated and I stand by them. Alcohol is legal and can cause harm when abused but there is no second hand smoke associated with alcohol.

        In 1989 when my Mom was suffering from cancer, if medical marijuana had been available that could be ingested in lieu of smoking, it would have been a great relief for her and I would have advocated making it available. Pain control is a major part of any illness or disease and no objections from me exploring anything that can provide relief. She spent the last few months of her life taking increasing doses of morphine to relieve her pain, something she didn’t want to do.

  11. Brad Warthen Post author

    I’m playing around with numbers a little bit…

    Just over 60 percent of all votes for governor yesterday went to Republicans, which looks like a big hill to climb for James.


    Of all the votes cast for governor, 24.42 percent went to James, while 25.59 percent went to McMaster. A 1.17 percentage point difference. That’s NOT such a tall hill to climb, for a Democrat in SC…

    1. Doug Ross

      That’s an odd way to look at the numbers. There is a majority of those 60% who will never vote Democrat. Smith has to get every single Democrat vote including all the ones who voted for his primary opponents PLUS grab a significant percentage of Republican voters who are willing to switch. He is down 8% to start at a minimum. Sheheen lost by 14.
      It’s possible with the weak candidates in the Republican side but it’s not likely at this point. He hasn’t faced anything approaching a real negative campaign like he will see either the next few months.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        14? I seem to recall charismatic Nikki beating the wonkish Sheheen by 4.5 points. Or are you talking about the time when she was a popular incumbent? That doesn’t seem comparable. This is an unelected incumbent who’s in a runoff with a political novice.

        But beyond that, Doug, you keep tossing out these numbers like they’re news. I wish I’d recorded a conversation I had with James when I ran into him at Richland Library a little over a year ago. You’d have loved it. He ran the numbers to me off the top of his head, and they sounded way scarier than the ones you cite. It was always about getting every single one of this kind of vote, and ever single one of that kind of vote, then X number of votes from God knows where to have even a chance of winning. He was explaining to me the reasons why he wouldn’t run if he didn’t.

        He knows the numbers better than you do. We all know the odds against a Democrat in South Carolina. You seem to think we don’t.

        The POINT is that he’s running, bravely, against all those odds. He knows everything has to break his way. I know it; we all know it.

        And the immediate point is that yesterday, things broke better for him than anyone was predicting.

        Actually, that’s one of the immediate points. The second is that McMaster’s performance stank up the place. He was up against an off-putting woman who seemed determined to alienate half the world, a political novice who keeps touting the same monotonous message that makes time seem to stand still when he starts talking, a right-wing extremist and a guy who’s been a Democrat most of his life and sounds like it. And he, the incumbent, the self-proclaimed bestie of Trump, couldn’t put it away. I expect him to get the nomination, but there’s a chance he won’t, and a better chance that he’ll do so with an unimpressive margin over Warren.

        What happened yesterday was just about as good as it could be for Smith’s chances.

        But it’s still an uphill fight for him. It always was, it is now, and always will be. We all KNOW that; you don’t have to keep telling us. But he’s got a chance, and he’s going for it. And he had a very good day yesterday, in both primaries…

        1. bud

          Doug’s numbers are way more persuasive than Brad’s intuitive mush. Right now the Real-Clear Politics website rates the South Carolina governor’s race as safe. Meaning the Republican is favored to win by more than 10%. James Smith is the absolute least charismatic candidate I think I’ve ever seen and he is just incredibly lackluster on the issues. He must, MUST get some otherwise loyal Republicans to crossover. He has ZERO chance, ZERO of getting any of those votes by talking about 388, rural hospitals, roads or even Medicaid money. This is ridiculously obvious to see. Right now I say it’s McMaster by 8 points.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            “Doug’s numbers are way more persuasive than Brad’s intuitive mush.”

            Golly, I’m so surprised.

            Did you read a word I said? I didn’t argue with a single thing Doug said about numbers. In fact, I told him that James’ own numbers were more intimidating than his.

            And you want some more numbers? I’ll give you something you can put in terms of ones and zeros: NO candidate who doesn’t try will win. And EVERY candidate who wins got up and tried.

            And that’s all we know right now: James Smith, in spite of the fricking numbers, got up and tried. And he did remarkably well — NUMERICALLY, I hope you’ll note — in his first test. While his opponent had a lackluster performance, measured NUMERICALLY.

            Mush? Are you kidding me? Why do I bother doing all this typing, if what I actually SAY is going to be ignored?

            I’m talking about REAL numbers, the ones from yesterday. It is patently absurd, beyond ridiculous, to try to assign a NUMBER (8 points? Really? Out of whose posterior was that extracted?) to something that will happen 146 days from now. YOU. DON’T. KNOW.

            I’m talking facts. You’re talking conjecture. That is what is happening here…

            1. bud

              Realclear has McMaster winning by 10+. I’m being optimistic because I don’t think McMaster is a great candidate. But he’s adequate. It’s not just conjecture it’s based on well established voting patterns, polls (which really aren’t in play just yet) incumbency and other measurables. But it seems extremely naive to think Smith has any chance at all running as he has. His Dem opponents were weak so putting any stock in the primary smacks of windmill tilting. Maybe Smith thinks his best strategy is to keep a low profile and hope Henry gets caught having sex with a goat or some other tawdry event. But barring that Safe GOP seems right.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Doug had this to say about that:


      That’s all I have to say about numbers. Now I move to MY turf… Whatever her faults, Nikki Haley had charisma. Wherever she went, audiences ate out of her hand. Henry McMaster does NOT possess that. Neither did Vincent Sheheen, as much as I like him. And yet, he almost beat her in 2010.

      When you’re dealing with those kinds of intangibles, numbers are fuzzy predictors. The only numbers that will count are the ones on Nov. 6, and there are a LOT of variables that will come into play — such as, for instance, the number of Republicans who will vote for anyone but Henry McMaster.

      Frankly, I’m not entirely sure why Henry isn’t more popular with voters. He’s an affable sort of guy. But the thing is, he doesn’t seem to be. Popular, I mean…

        1. Doug Ross

          Well it’s just plain wrong to suggest he is 1.17 points behind. He’s not. No credible analysis would suggest it is even close yet.

          And if Smith knows the types of votes he needs to get to win, he sure hasn’t done anything to try and make it happen. In fact, I think he’s making a huge mistake in not making the black vote a greater focus. He needs blacks to go to the voter booth at high levels to win.

          But then he could get a gift with McMaster winning the primary and then getting tarred with future Quinn indictments. That actually is the best case scenario for him.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            That is one of the things that can break his way. Far from a gimme, though. But James definitely dodged a bullet with Templeton’s loss — he would have done everything she could to hang the Quinns around HIS neck, using that picture of mine.

            And yeah, I entirely agree that it is absurd to say he’s 1.17 percent behind, just as it’s ridiculous this far out for Bud to say he’ll lose by “8 points.” We simply don’t know. All I was doing there was what I said I was doing — I was “Playing around with the numbers.” I used those words because, you know, that’s precisely what I was doing…

            1. bud

              “We simply don’t know”

              That is a truism. I don’t ever address any issue without attaching a number. I can’t think in mushy intuitive terms. 8% is just where the available evidence takes me. Sorry if it annoys you when I throw out an early guesstimate. Once polling starts we’ll have a more scientific look at this race.

            2. Doug Ross

              It’s fine to “play” with numbers. But then you tried to attach some analysis to those numbers with: “. That’s NOT such a tall hill to climb, for a Democrat in SC…”

              1.17 % isn’t the hill he has to climb. If the numbers don’t mean anything, then the words don’t either.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Oh, come on — seriously? You thought that I think that a November contest can be spoken of meaningfully with a precision of 1.17 percentage points? Folks, I like to kid around here about not being a numbers guy, but come on — how stupid do you think I am?

                Do you have any idea how many variables there are out there between Tuesday’s vote and November’s? I spoke of shares of the actual vote on Tuesday because that’s what was at hand.

                But it doesn’t begin to address such questions as, to name two, 1) whom the more than 300,000 voters — half of those who showed up — who voted for Warren, Templeton, Bryant, McGill, Noble and Willis will vote for in the fall; or 2) what the vast majority of registered voters (83 percent of them) who didn’t vote in the primaries will do.

                Not to mention the variable of whether McMaster is even able to beat Warren in the primary.

                ALL of those are big unknowns, and I would have to be NUTS to be talking seriously about 1.17 percent! So, you know, you might want to consider the possibility that when I say “play,” I mean play….

      1. Scout

        For what it’s worth, this is what Vincent Sheheen thinks about it….

        “Folks, for those of you who wonder if James Smith can win in November let me share this:

        In 2010, we barely lost the election. My loss to Nikki Haley was just by a few percentage points. She only received 51%. This year, the decline in the Republican primary and the increase in the Democratic Primary, BY ITSELF, make up for more than the 2010 margin. This year is a year of change in South Carolina!”

        1. Doug Ross

          What happened in 2014, Vincent? He did worse the second time around. Apparently, that one didn’t count. The economy is in far better shape now than it was in 2010. That is a leading indicator on retaining power. And let’s not forget Sheheen lost even though he had more experience and more name recognition than Haley going into it. It was his to lose. And he did.

          Smith cannot win on motherhood and apple pie issues. Sheheen didn’t get it either. Play to the Democratic base in SC and you lose with honor. He’s got to cross the aisle with some conservative issues and also go hard with some liberal issues as well. There’s nothing he could say now that would drive away the Democrats.. so come out stronger on pro-life… give an inch on school vouchers for the worst districts on a trial basis. Do SOMETHING that we didn’t see Sheheen do twice already.

          Building a campaign around Medicaid expansion is a strategic mistake… what if Warren wins the runoff and says “Yeah. I’m going to accept the Medicaid funds too AND pay for it by cutting X, Y, and Z” Then Smith has lost his big issue in a heartbeat.

          1. Scout

            “And let’s not forget Sheheen lost even though he had more experience and more name recognition than Haley going into it. It was his to lose.”

            Did he? have more name recognition in 2010? Weren’t they both just legislators before that election? Haley is the one that made more headlines than Vincent in the legislature, I think. But maybe I’m remembering wrong.

            ” There’s nothing he could say now that would drive away the Democrats.”

            Maybe, but he seems to have really annoyed Bud already.

            Most of the time you criticize politicians for changing their positions to get elected. Yet is that not what you are advocating that James Smith do here? What is it that you respect in a politician – sticking to their principles or being able to get elected? Just curious.

            1. bud

              If Smith goes “pro-life” he’s toast. Democrats probably won’t cross the aisle and vote for the GOP nominee but they surely will stay home. Which is the equivalent of losing half a vote. He would have to gain a Republican voter for every 2 Democrats who stay home just to break even. Pro-life and school vouchers are not the way to go. Of course I’ve said it enough but one more time, the medicinal marijuana or even full legalization issue would be winners IMHO.

            2. Brad Warthen Post author

              Where did THAT come from? Vincent was pro-life. Not James.

              As for name recognition, that’s ridiculous. We were well into that campaign — maybe even as late as the primaries — and every time I Googled Vincent Sheheen, the first thing that would come up was a blog post of mine from early 2008 in which he was talking about government restucturing.

              It took a LONG time for him to get any traction on search engines — quite a bit longer than Nikki, who was getting all that sympathetic national press for being a woman, of Indian extraction, and having been the target of scandalous accusations that created a tidal wave of sympathy.

              Where were you during all that, Doug?

              1. Doug Ross

                I was here. Sheheen was known through his father. Haley came out of nowhere. She beat Sheheen by being more dynamic, not because she was a woman.

                Do you seriously think that people vote based on Google searches? Really?

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Doug… by citing SEO, I was giving you tangible proof of name recognition. Nikki was all over the place; until he won the primary, Sheheen was practically in a dark hole as far as publicity was concerned.

                  And citing his Dad shows that maybe you weren’t there. His Dad Fred was a great guy, admired by those who knew him — but those were mostly political insiders. He had been in the news most when he was head of the Commission on Higher Education 20 years earlier. Quick: Who’s the current head of the CHE? I certainly can’t tell you.

                  The Sheheen name was prominent in political circles because of his uncle Bob — who had been speaker of the House. But not since the beginning of 1995.

                  Have you really forgotten the kind of coverage Nikki was getting? I haven’t. Maybe this cover of Newsweek calling her “THE FACE OF THE NEW SOUTH” will jog your memory. Or maybe this clip from The Daily Show, about the allegations against her from Will Folks and Larry Marchant, will remind you…

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Oops, that Jon Stewart clip isn’t working at the moment.

                    Anyway, it was the one in which he had so much fun speculating about Larry Marchant’s sexuality. It may also have had Jake Knotts calling her a “raghead” — or maybe that was another episode.

                    In any case, she was a national household name at the time, while Vincent couldn’t get any coverage. National media were hugging themselves with excitement over the idea of an Indian-American woman being governor of South Carolina, while the fact that Vincent would have been the first Lebanese-American, and first Catholic, couldn’t get a mention…

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    How many newspapers endorsed Trump?

                    Of course editorial boards went for Vincent. He was the qualified candidate. That has zippo to do with name recognition….

                    Name recognition is about the… I hesitate to say “idiot vote,” but what do you call people who vote for someone based on nothing but having heard the name? (Mind you, there may have been times when I did something almost that bad, such as voting for a school board candidate I was vaguely familiar with, but I generally do NOT do that, and to the extent I ever have, I was an idiot to do so.)

                    People who read newspaper endorsements are far, far beyond the “name recognition” stage…

                    1. Brad Warthen Post author

                      As I mentioned earlier, I feel bad that I didn’t have a lot more info about the Democratic candidates for 2nd congressional district before voting for Sean Carrigan, so I’m still a little queasy about that — although I haven’t seen anything yet to make me regret it.

                      But then, my notion of “sufficient information” is probably higher than most people’s. And I’ve been trying to get used to not knowing as much as a voter as I did at the newspaper, when these people could come see me and talk about their candidacies at length…

                    2. Brad Warthen Post author

                      In other words, I’m saying I wish I’d known more about them — but what I did know was more than “name recognition.” Not a LOT more than, but more than…

                2. Barry

                  Agree Brad.

                  My parents live in the upstate. They knew Haley because my mom referred to her as that “Indian looking lady.”

                  They had no clue who Sheheen was or who his Camden, Sc daddy was. Most people in upstate SC don’t know where Camden is at. My mom called him “that shine guy” after I told her his name half a dozen times. (Vincent married a girl that went to high school in the upstate)

                  Haley had a LOT more name recognition and had the photogenic stuff down to a science.

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            “What happened in 2014, Vincent?” As I’ve said before, I thought he had a weak campaign that time. But also, Nikki had been growing into her job, and was doing a lot better than she did to start with, when she was a clueless novice who shouldn’t have been elected.

            And this may be a relatively small thing in these populist days, but Vincent had a lot of Establishment support in 2010 that he no longer had in 2014. In 2010, for instance, he had the backing of the state Chamber of Commerce, a remarkable thing for a Democrat. By 2014, Haley allies were in control of the Chamber and Otis Rawl was on his way out, to be replaced by former Haley staffer Ted Pitts. So that dynamic was very different….

  12. Phillip

    You all are assuming McMaster wins the runoff. If Warren’s surprising surge (which knocked out Templeton) continues in the next 2 weeks towards an upset of McMaster, that would in my opinion make Smith’s task actually more difficult, with Warren able to portray himself as the outsider. Smith should hope that McMaster holds on in the runoff.

    1. Scout

      I think you are right. Warren is also a veteran, so he loses that edge against Warren too.

    2. bud

      Yep, Warren has the charisma factor. He’s clearly the underdog but just to annoy Brad I’ll give him a 40% chance 🙂

      1. Brad Warthen Post author


        Every time he got a turn to talk in the debates, with that I assure you I have no experience whatsoever that qualify me for this job routine (I’m paraphrasing; I don’t recall the exact words), I was like MAKE IT STOP! It was awful. Yancey McGill was more scintillating…

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