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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

In the Carolinas and Utah

This is the last multi-primary Tuesday we will see until August, with runoffs on tap in North Carolina, South Carolina and (not so you’d really notice it) Mississippi, and primaries in Utah.
I’ve written up the Carolina runoffs here and the Utah primary here for FiveThirtyEight, so you can check out those posts if you are interested.
To the extent that the MSM even notices today’s primaries, the big news is almost certain to be from South Carolina.
Top billing will be given to Nikki Haley’s gubernatorial runoff win in SC, which will be largely treated as a stirring account of the triumph of an Asian-American woman over slander and bigotry in the paleolithic Deep South. Much less noted will be the fact that Haley’s win will represent a major victory for Jim DeMint’s brand of take-no-prisoners conservatism. Indeed, the ideological character of Haley’s candidacy has been (outside SC in particularly) largely lost in the storms of controversy (real or contrived) about her sex life, ethnicity and religion. The challenge for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Vincent Sheheen between now and November will be to refocus attention on Haley’s ideology–which could be too radical even for South Carolina–and away from her “story” and her Republican tormenters.
Another South Carolina “story” we are likely to hear a lot about tonight involves Tim Scott, an African-American conservative state legislator who is in a runoff with Strom Thurmond’s son (Paul) for the GOP nomination for a relatively safe Republican congressional seat. Like Haley, Scott comes right out of central casting for the conservative movement, and he’s favored over Thurmond today.
The third SC headliner will likely be the mandatory retirement of conservative Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis, who ran a relatively poor second in the primary to Tea Party favorite Trey Gowdy. Inglis’ primary sin was a vote for TARP.
Today’ weather in the Palmetto State is (appropriately) steamy with a chance of thunderstorms, which could hold down what is already expected to be low turnout.
In NC, it’s really too close to call in the Senate Democratic runoff between Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Iraq War vet Cal Cunningham, but with turnout expected to be relatively terrible, I’d bet on Marshall as the favorite of party activists both locally and nationally.
And out in Utah, the Republican Senate primary between Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee has become a fascinating struggle between two candidates who are far to the right of what very recently passed for mainstream conservatism. Yet as I noted in my FiveThirtyEight post, Bridgewater is being treated by Lee supporters as some sort of godless liberal RINO. If Lee wins (and it’s anybody’s guess who will prevail), the entire Utah campaign could serve as a case study in how rapidly the GOP has moved right in the last year-and-a-half.

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