Friday, April 21, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- How the Republican Candidates Line Up in South Carolina

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

The 2024 primary calendar is not set yet. But if it goes according to plan on the Republican side, then Iowa Republicans will hold caucuses followed by the presidential primary in New Hampshire. South Carolina would come next, and it is the delegate prize of the early calendar. The Palmetto state not only offers the most delegates of any of the first four states, but also allocates them in a winner-take-most manner that promises the statewide victor a decent chance of sweeping the delegates with just a bit more than a 40 percent plurality. 

And that is important because a couple of recent polls of South Carolina Republicans show former President Donald Trump pulling in just north of 40 percent support. Now sure, the primary date is not even established in South Carolina, so it is definitely still early. Read into those numbers what one wants at this point, approximately nine months out from the Palmetto state primary. But Trump holds the pole position at the moment and how the candidates line up behind him matters. 

As in the majority of the current national polls of the Republican race, Ron DeSantis now is a clear second option to the 45th president in South Carolina. Behind the Florida governor are a pair of South Carolinians who are vying for the nomination as well. Depending on the poll, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Senator Tim Scott together account for anywhere from a quarter to a third of the support there. And where that support goes should either or both falter in Iowa or New Hampshire (if not the invisible primary) is consequential. As the National Public Affairs survey demonstrates, Haley and Scott are one and the same for all intents and purposes. Should Haley withdraw, then Scott would be the odds on favorite to take her support. The same is true if it was Scott dropping out. Haley would gain. 

But if both are forced out of the race, then DeSantis is the more likely beneficiary. Some of that homegrown support for Haley and/or Scott may filter out to other candidates or even stay with the favorite son/daughter if one or both remain(s) on the ballot. But if the bulk of that Haley/Scott support shifted to DeSantis, then it could be enough to vault the Florida governor over Trump statewide. 

At this juncture, it is obviously premature to speculate to that degree. But the jockeying in South Carolina matters because it is likely to give the winner of the primary a fairly significant net delegate advantage heading into the Nevada contest and beyond. That is no small thing.

The real take home from all of this is that Haley and Scott have some hard work ahead of them in potentially creating some daylight between each other back home. An early win before South Carolina, either outright or relative to expectations, may do that. But getting to that point is the real trick. That is where the hard work is.


The key state? New Hampshire. 

One has to read all the way into the seventh paragraph before it is mentioned that Biden may not even be on the ballot in the Granite state if New Hampshire Democrats choose to go rogue, opting into a primary that is likely to be set by the secretary of state for some time in January 2024. 

What this poll really indicates is that a relatively unpopular president is even more unpopular in a state where being first-in-the-nation in the presidential primary process is matter of state identity if not right (in the eyes of some New Hampshirites). Moving South Carolina up was no boon to Biden in New Hampshire. Where all of them might matter more is the general election rather than the primary phase.

Entry points. Larry Elder is in, and so is Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. as of Wednesday, April 19. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is close to a decision on entering the Republican presidential nomination race as well. Oh, and President Biden appears to be nearing a decision himself. 

In the endorsement primary, Trump continues to amass Florida congressional delegation support, picking up three more endorsements from Reps. Bilirakis, Buchanan and Waltz. The former president's campaign is not just doing this in Florida. He also claims the two biggest endorsements in South Carolina from Senator Lindsay Graham and Governor Henry McMaster. It is becoming clearer that the Trump campaign values these opponent-homestate endorsements as effective counters to candidates and would-be candidates running against him for the Republican nomination. 

Over at FHQ Plus...
  • Hawaii is still trying to create a presidential primary, Idaho is dealing with suddenly not having one and Missouri continues to attempt to bring theirs back. All at FHQ Plus.
If you haven't checked out FHQ Plus yet, then what are you waiting for? Subscribe below for free and consider a paid subscription to support FHQ's work.

On this date... 1983, Senator John Glenn (D-OH) announced his campaign for the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination. 1988, Tennessee Senator Al Gore (D) withdrew from the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.


No comments: