According to the first outside polling to hit the press in the race for the GOP nomination for the Seventh Congressional District, the race is still taking a while to develop, showing high numbers of undecided voters (35 percent of respondents) remain and former Lt. Governor Andre Bauer and Horry County Council Chair Tom Rice in a tight race for first place among those who already hold opinions.
Much of what the data showed wasn't a surprise. Internal numbers we've seen from various camps had pegged Bauer and Rice as the leading contenders for the seat, with the others far back in the pack, as well as high numbers for undecided voters. Here are some other notable trends we saw in this survey which might give us some idea of what to watch out for during the race:
- Bauer's performance was better in rural areas, including Florence, where he edged out the favorite local candidate, attorney Jay Jordan (22 to 19 percent), while finishing second in Horry and third place in Georgetown. This is similar to a pattern seen in his successful bid for the 2002 GOP nomination for Lieutenant Governor, where he margins won in rural counties allowed him offset losing many of the metro counties (inc. Anderson, Berkeley, Dorchester, Greenville, Horry and Pickens and Spartanburg Counties), as well as in his come-from-behind re-election victory in the 2006 GOP run-off.
- Rice continues to make progress in the race, getting into a competitive position with Andre Bauer. Most polling showed Rice in second place but moving forward once his campaign's TV spots began airing, a trend reflected in this poll as well.
- Florence County, the lesser of the two population centers in the district, struggles to be relevant in the race, on the heels of a near shut-out at the recent Seventh District GOP convention (all but one candidate who won offices lived in Georgetown or Horry Counties). With Jay Jordan, the favored local candidate struggling to get out of the teens in his backyard and almost a no-show elsewhere (again consistent with numbers we've seen), not only is he trending towards not making the run-off, but his present support is so low as to give him and his backers very little ability to use his endorsement to influence the outcome of the likely run-off.
With campaigns ramping up late, a trend attributed largely to depressed fund-raising in a slow economic time, these numbers are bound to change in the next few weeks.