U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett said he will not concede the Republican gubernatorial nomination before the June 22nd runoff, though he faces an uphill battle to defeat front-runner Nikki Haley.
Meanwhile, an Upstate Republican consultant said he expects a group of Republican businessmen, concerned about the inevitability of Haley's nomination, to bolt their party and organize an effort to support Democratic gubernatorial nominee Vincent Sheheen of Camden.
Haley, a Lexington state representative, nearly won the GOP nomination outright Tuesday, garnering more than twice the number of votes as the second-place Barrett of Westminster.
Though South Carolina has a history of come-from-behind runoff victories — U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint in 2004 and Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer in 2006, both Republicans — observers said the odds are against Barrett.
"If it's 10 points, it's one thing. But it's 27 points. I just don't see it," said Greenville-based political consultant Chip Felkel of Haley's 49-22 margin Tuesday. "He's in it for the long haul, but it's a long, long haul."
An analysis of polling data by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm, showed Barrett would pick up most of those who voted for the other two GOP primary candidates, Attorney General Henry McMaster and Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer. But Haley still would win 60 percent of all Republican voters.
Neither McMaster nor Bauer endorsed a runoff candidate Wednesday.
"The only way Haley's going to lose this thing — or that it's even going to be close — is if a new scandal breaks that can actually be proven," wrote Public Policy's Tom Jensen, referring to the unproven claims by two men that they had affairs with Haley in 2007 and 2008. Haley, who is married and has two children, has said the accusations are false.
With the Republican field narrowed to two candidates, Barrett's campaign said both candidates will receive more exposure, benefiting Barrett.
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