Politics of South Carolina

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Prior to the 1960s, the Democratic party had control of South Carolina at all levels. South Carolina was a part of the Solid South and voted entirely Democrat from the late 1870s to the Civil Rights Movement. Compared to the rest of the South, the Southern Democrats' disenfranchisement of blacks, poor whites, and any other voter who might vote Republican was particularly harsh. Democrats carried the state in every presidential election from 1880 to 1944 with over 90% of the vote every time, even in 1928, when Republican Herbert Hoover took many formerly solid South states. Most voters in South Carolina were Yellow dog Democrats, but Governor Strom Thurmond's run for president as a States' Rights Democratic Party in 1948 opened up the possibility of voting for a party other than the national Democratic Party. The Republican Party did not gain relevance in the state until Strom Thurmond, as a United States Senator, switched parties in 1964 from Democrat to Republican. From 1964 to present, the Republican Party has gradually gained strength and by the 1990s it became the dominant party of the state.

Like the states with the longest Republican streaks, South Carolina has voted Republican in 13 of the last 14 elections, even in 1968 when George Wallace was running and took six Southern states. However, in 1976, the state went for Jimmy Carter and Ford only managed to carry just three counties.

Electoral strategy[edit]

Republican electoral strategy for state elections revolves around winning in the three major metro areas of South Carolina: Greenville, Columbia, and Charleston. When they run up big margins in the counties of Greenville, Spartanburg, Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, and Lexington, Republican candidates usually win. Mark Sanford demonstrated this perfectly in his 2002 gubernatorial race against incumbent Governor Jim Hodges.

Democratic statewide candidates typically focus on a strategy that maximizes their advantage in the Midlands, limits their losses in the Upstate, and breaks even in the Lowcountry. Jim Hodges defeated incumbent Governor David Beasley by successfully using this strategy in the 1998 gubernatorial election.

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