Vote boosts SC and Georgetown County GOP outlook

As this article from The State newspaper shows, Republican voters turned out in numbers that overwhelmed the Democrat turnout for last week's primary elections- again documenting the strength of the GOP with voters in South Carolina.

In Georgetown County the GOP attracted the overwhelming majority of primary voters with the appeal of the party's conservative platform of lower taxes and limited government- almost 60% of the primary voters in the county voted Republican.

And for the first time in history the Republicans captured a majority on County Council with Austin Beard's impressive victory in the County Council District- 5 special election on June 10th.

The State- Sunday, June 15, 2008
Vote boosts S.C. GOP outlook

By Wayne Washington

S.C. Republicans say turnout in Tuesday's primary shows party's hold on the state

Democrats, excited about the high turnout in their presidential primary earlier this year, are hoping South Carolina can be put into play in November's general election.

But if Tuesday's primary results are any indication, the Palmetto State is as red as ever.

On a hot day when the state's senior U.S. senator, Lindsey Graham, and three U.S. House members all faced primary challenges, Republicans swamped Democrats at the polls.

Graham and his opponent, retired dentist Buddy Witherspoon, got a combined 278,625 votes - almost twice the number of votes two Democrats on the ballot received.

In the U.S. House races, Republican candidates combined to out-poll their Democratic counterparts by even more gaping margins.

Republicans were quick to see the results as a testament to their hold on the state.

"Republican candidates won primary elections ... by staying true to the principles of our party, limited government, lower taxes and traditional values," said S.C. Republican Party chairman Katon Dawson. "Even with the excitement surrounding the Democratic presidential primary, Republicans in South Carolina have out-recruited the Democrats, out-fundraised the Democrats, and we will out-work the Democrats this fall."

Dawson even took a shot at the presumptive Democratic nominee, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, who won the primary here in January.

"Democrats nominated candidates for office in South Carolina up and down the ballot who are long on rhetoric and short on substance, just like their presidential nominee, Barack Obama, the most liberal member of the United States Senate," Dawson said.

Dawson's remarks indicate Republicans believe Obama will not be a boon to other Democrats on the ballot this fall and could actually be a drag on their prospects. That's precisely what state Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, predicted when he chose to support U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York in the presidential primary.

But other Democrats and political experts believe McCain will have to compete to win South Carolina this fall.

They cite the current environment, where gas prices are painfully high, the nation's most visible Republican, President Bush, is unpopular and the economy is troubled.

And then there is the excitement Obama's campaign generated here earlier this year when he spoke to large, overflow crowds at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center and at Williams-Brice Stadium and spurred the registration of thousands of new voters.

The excitement of January has not waned.

"I'm getting people knocking on our door, looking to go to work for Obama," said Carol Fowler, chairwoman of the S.C. Democratic Party. "If Obama never comes east of the Mississippi River, we will have a strong Obama campaign here."

Republican presidential candidates have had little trouble carrying South Carolina.

Jimmy Carter, from neighboring Georgia, was the last Democrat to win the state, in 1976.

For seven straight presidential elections, Republicans have been able to assume victory in South Carolina and focus their time and resources in other, more competitive states.

But Blease Graham, political science professor at USC, believes McCain won't have that luxury this fall. He, like Fowler, believes the large gaps in voting between Republicans and Democrats in last week's primary are more of a reflection of what was at stake.

"As much as anything, it shows the distinction between a presidential office and a state office," Graham said. "It's entirely possible that Obama will do better."

Fowler, an Obama supporter, said putting those excited new supporters to work registering new voters will be key. That new voters did not come out to support other candidates in the primary does not mean they won't flood the polls for Obama this fall.

"People don't go out and vote just because it's election day," Fowler said. "They vote because they know of a candidate or they know of a particular issue."

Obama, unlike past Democratic nominees, is expected to have far more money to spend than his Republican rival.

That money can be used on advertising and on campaign staffers, even in states where he merely wants to force McCain to use his own, more limited, resources.

"There is the potential for Obama to mount a 50-state campaign," Graham said. "If there is enough excitement, it could drain the resources (of McCain), and it could make the race here competitive."

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, the Springdale Republican who crushed his primary opponent Tuesday while receiving almost twice as many votes as his opponents combined, said McCain and Graham will be a buoy to GOP office-seekers this fall.

"I look forward to being on the ticket with Lindsey Graham, and I also believe Sen. McCain will be very strong in this state," Wilson said.

Graham said he also believes McCain will have success in South Carolina his fall but that all won't be lost for Democrats.

"I just have a feeling that McCain will probably win this state, but it will be closer than it's been in recent years and there will be a lot of enthusiasm for Democrats," he said.