2012: South Carolina Republicans gained ground, missed opportunities

As the dust settles on the South Carolina political landscape, it's clear while that little changed in the balance of power, Republicans remained on top.

Republicans went into the cycle expecting to build on the impressive gains of 2010, especially following last year's redistricting, but much the momentum seemed to have been lost in expensive and time-consuming party-infighting, much of it centered around the SEI filing mess. In the end, a number of opportunities slipped through their fingers, leaving them with much more modest gains than many had expected:

  • The GOP "Freshman Four" in the U.S. House all rolled to comfortable wins against token opposition - a far cry from the high-dollar battles each of them waged two years ago, two winning hotly-contested open seats and two taking out incumbents. The GOP took control of the state's new Seventh Congressional District, but the final vote tally showed a fairly lackluster margin of around twelve points against a fairly-flawed Democratic nominee who just moved from Georgia a year ago, even after several polls suggested Tom Rice, the GOP nominee was positioned to do even better.

  • Republicans made an effective defense of their state Senate majority, coming out on top in battles to hold seats in Charleston and Columbia, while coming out on top of one of two targeted Democratic seats by taking a Senate seat in Dillon and Horry Counties while falling short in another seat in the Midlands. Also, hoped-for strong challenges in several other districts never materialized and Democratic Senators Coleman, Nicholson, Reese and Setzler won by big margins over their Republican challengers.

  • While Republicans hoped to reach the 80-seat mark in the State House, they added just two seats to their majority. While they gained three open seats formerly held by Democrats, efforts to take a seat in Colleton and Dorchester Counties and another in Chesterfield and Lancaster Counties fell short and Democrats gained a seat in Richland County. 

  • Republicans landed first-ever courthouse wins in Lancaster, Laurens and Union Counties and won first-ever County Council majorities in Barnwell and Lancaster Counties. However, they failed to re-take the majority they lost on Charleston County Council four years ago and lost the first courthouse contest in the county in twenty years.

While the overall position of the GOP statewide isn't bad, a number of opportunities were clearly lost, for which there are plenty of reasons. GOP leaders would be wise to look into what went right - and what went wrong. If they want to regain some of the momentum they had two years ago, they'd be wise to start looking soon.

** Note: After the initial publication of this story, we were informed the Barnwell GOP had gained a majority of seats on their County Council.

2 Response to "2012: South Carolina Republicans gained ground, missed opportunities"

  1. Anonymous 14/11/12 11:58
    The State GOP had the Senate District 35 seat and because of their own incompetence left the seat in the hands of Democrats. The Election SEI scenario was in play for them and they decided to play favorites to their own peril. All candidates with the exception of one lone Republican filed eroneously, but they took the position that two in the bushes is worth one in the hand. They colluded with the local Democrats thinking they could come out on top in the general election only to be outsmarted by the Democrats. WOW! Such stupidity from a party that we expect so much from.
    "A Freeman"
  2. Anonymous 14/11/12 16:55
    Eddie Drayton would not have got a thousand votes in that race for Senate District 35. No one cut a deal. If the Chairwoman and the Candidates said they seen the form then that was all that was required. Drayton is a sore loser and he never had a political future and certainly has none now. Comprehend Eddie Drayton.

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