South Carolina

By Emily Palmer

With a strong trend of conservative voting, South Carolina is far from a battleground state and is poised to cast its electoral votes for Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. But while South Carolina is certain to go red this presidential election, Jack Bass, a South Carolina political expert and author of nine books on the American South, said the state’s political allegiances are more complicated upon closer observation.

“The state gets overlooked by presidential candidates because they don’t understand the state,” Bass said, adding that Obama would have enjoyed full-house crowds, if he had spoken in the state before or after the Democratic National Convention in neighboring North Carolina. Bass said that Obama would have also received strong support from the state’s 34 black legislators and black officials across the state, if he had asked them to help organize voters. Nearly 30 percent of South Carolina registered voters are blacks.

Republicans control both chambers of the legislature, hold all the state’s constitutional offices and have all South Carolina seats in the U.S. House, with the exception of Democratic U.S. Rep. James Clyburn in the Sixth District.

Bass said that Obama’s case would have been helped by the fact that Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, is not popular in the state – unpopularity based not on his Mormon religion, but on his tendency to waffle on the issues. This year, even after Governor Nikki Haley endorsed Romney, he received only 28 percent of the vote in the GOP primary – a distant second place behind Newt Gingrich with 40 percent.

In November, South Carolina voters will also vote for seven U.S. House members – an increase of one seat after the 2010 reapportionment census. All incumbents – five Republicans (Districts 1-5) and one Democrat (District 6) – are running for re-election. Only Republican Joe Wilson in the Second District is running unopposed in the general election. The newly-formed Seventh District has 37 percent black voter registration, and Gloria Bromell-Tinubu, who is African-American, is considered a strong Democratic candidate, though Republican Tom Rice has had a finance advantage.

Both of South Carolina’s U.S. Senators – Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham – are Republican. DeMint has served since 2005; his term runs through 2016. Graham, who has served since 2003, will come up for re-election in 2014.

 South Carolina’s new law requiring voters to show a government-issued ID before casting their ballots, recently came under fire, with the Justice Department rejecting the law as discriminatory in May.  In October, a federal court ruled that the law does not violate the federal Voting Rights Act, meaning that beginning in 2013, South Carolina voters must present a state-approved ID before voting. The law will not affect the presidential election

The state’s governor, Nikki Haley, was elected in 2010 with 51 percent of the vote over Democratic nominee Vincent Sheheen.  As a woman of Indian parentage, she became the state’s first female and non-white governor. Haley has used the presidential race as a means of promoting herself in Republican politics in the coming years.

South Carolina’s Senate is composed of 26 Republicans and 19 Democrats with one vacant seat. The state House of Representative is made up of 76 Republicans and 48 Democrats.

The state’s elections opened in controversy with a heated debate about the fairness of extending the deadline for candidates to file their required statement of economic interest. When many Republican and Democratic candidates missed the March 30 deadline, the State Ethics Commission extended the deadline, a decision that Democrats considered unfair. Eventually, almost 250 candidates were removed from the primary ballot as a result of a state Supreme Court ruling. Incumbent legislators were allowed to remain on the ballot, as they had filed statements in previous elections. Many of the disqualified candidates were later put back on the ballot, but Democrats are still calling foul, arguing that the ruling favored incumbent – and thus largely Republican – candidates.

South Carolina has a single ballot initiative for 2012. The initiative, if it passed, would require the governor to choose a running mate for lieutenant governor.

The state ranks worst in the nation for access to public information, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

Still, Andy Brack, a statewide syndicated political columnist and publisher of, called the relationship between press and political figures “milquetoast,” saying: “Most mainstream journalists do not actively press politicians and public officials to get to the real story.” Brack said that most state journalists do not have the institutional memory to be able to ask the tough questions. Still, he said the press-public official relationship is more contentious with politicians, like Haley, who, he said, tend to avoid the press. “Haley rarely sits down with South Carolina reporters,” he said. “But will take a call from a national reporter in a skinny minute to build her national profile.”

In September, the South Carolina Press Association asked state officials to sign a “transparency pledge,” which would mean that they would need to hand over public records in a timely manner. Brack said that he does not believe that the contentious relationship between some public officials and the media leads to watchdog journalism. “Events have to reach a critical mass before reportage gets good,” he said.


S.C. Hotline: This conservative political blog reports on state, as well as national, politics. Called “A Dirty Deeds Production,” the site also includes links to many other South Carolina political blogs.
Web site:

Another Voice: “Moving America Forward: Another Voice with Jason and Eric WOLT 103.3” merges the radio medium with conservative blogging. While the bloggers are vocal about their own political agenda (even registering voters this September), they are  critical of some of Miyt Romney’s political tactics, like the fact that Romney said that 47 percent of Americans would vote for President Obama no matter what.
Web site:

Statehouse Report: This subscription-based blog informs subscribers about House and Senate floor action and hot-topic state issues, while providing weekly legislative updates and tallies of new bills. The blog’s publisher, Andy Brack, once served as former Democratic U.S. Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings’ press secretary.

Palmetto Public Record: This left-wing blog splits commentary based on: “Economic Growth,” “Building Infrastructure,” “Educating Carolina,” “Defending Democracy,” “Politics” and “News Tips.” These headings are subdivided, so that readers interested in state politics can read blogs solely about the “Governor,” “Agencies,” “Legislature,” or “Palmetto Primary.”
Web site:




Nikki Haley (R): 2010-Present

Campaign web page:



Jim DeMint (R): 2004-Present

Campaign web page:

Lindsey Graham (R): 2002-2006; 2008-Present

Campaign web page:



Tim Scott (R, 1st District): 2011-Present

Campaign web page:

Joe Wilson (R, 2nd District): 2001-Present

Campaign web page:

Jeff Duncan (R, 3rd District): 2010-Present

Campaign web page:

Trey Gowdy (R, 4th District): 2011-Present

Campaign web page:

Mick Mulvaney (R, 5th District): 2010-Present

Campaign web page:

James E. Clyburn (D, 6th District): 1993-Present

Campaign web page: