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Carolina GOP Favorites Face Runoff Tests Carolina GOP Favorites Face Runoff Tests

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HOUSE RACES

Carolina GOP Favorites Face Runoff Tests

North Carolina, 8th District:

Republicans think they have a shot at the seat of Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell if former TV sportscaster Harold Johnson wins the GOP runoff. But if embattled businessman Tim D'Annunzio -- who led the Republican primary with 33 percent of the vote -- manages to secure the nod, his publicized baggage will likely doom their chances.

D'Annunzio's runoff difficulties started in late-May, when North Carolina GOP Chairman Tom Fetzer called him "unfit for public office," citing court records from D'Annunzio's divorce and child custody cases. The documents say D'Annunzio is a "self-described religious zealot" and include a psychiatric evaluation -- all tempting fodder for Democrats in the general election.

 

Sensing this, almost the entire GOP establishment has lined up behind Johnson. He now counts as his supporters former GOP Rep. Robin Hayes, the North Carolina congressional delegation, and all three of his defeated primary challengers. Even some tea party groups have distanced themselves from D'Annunzio, whom they previously supported.

Polling now shows Johnson with the late lead, and even D'Annunzio concedes he has little hope of winning.

South Carolina, 1st District:

With just two weeks between the primary and runoff, there is little time for underdog Republican Paul Thurmond, son of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, to recover from his second-place showing to state GOP Rep. Tim Scott in the primary, 31 percent to 16 percent. But he is trying his hardest, earning the backing of a majority of seven of his defeated primary challengers.

 

GOP leaders in Washington have largely rallied behind Scott, who, if he won, would be the first Republican African-American House member since the retirement of Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma.

The runoff has been rather calm, and neither side has attacked the other. In the absence of a game-changing event, Scott would look to have the edge.

South Carolina, 3rd District:

There was a surprise first-place finisher in the GOP primary for retiring Rep. Gresham Barrett's safe GOP seat - pastor and pro-life activist Richard Cash. He led the large field with 25 percent, topping two GOP state legislators with bigger war chests: Jeff Duncan and Rex Rice. He will face Duncan in the runoff.

It would be easy to conclude that Cash benefited from vote splitting in a large, six-candidate field in the primary. And in the runoff, his dedicated grassroots supporters will not hold as much sway in a two-man race featuring a well-funded, established candidate such as Duncan. Indeed, heading into the final three weeks, Duncan had a 3-1 cash-on-hand advantage over Cash. But if Cash's supporters continue to stay motivated, and if turnout is low for a runoff, he has a shot.

 

Still, Duncan, with all of his advantages, is probably the favorite.

South Carolina, 4th District:

After taking just 28 percent in the primary two weeks ago, the climb to a runoff victory is steep for GOP Rep. Bob Inglis. Immediately following the contest, Inglis went on the attack against Spartanburg County Solicitor Trey Gowdy, and his campaign promised an assault on Gowdy's conservative credentials.

But just a few days later, Inglis changed course and began running an anti-Washington campaign. In a TV ad, he attacked members of both parties for failing to deal with the swelling federal deficit.

In the primary, Gowdy won Spartanburg County -- which made up 36 percent of the total vote -- with 60 percent. Inglis took his home of Greenville County -- which made up 63 percent of the total vote -- but with just 32 percent. That means he can win the runoff if he consolidates his support in his home county and performs reasonably well in Spartanburg County But for an incumbent whom 72 percent of voters have already voted against, re-introductions this late in the race are not very successful. Barring a huge turnaround, Gowdy should win.

This article appears in the June 19, 2010 edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.

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