Political consultant: Sanford saga could mark end of GOP dominance in S.C.

The five announced or likely candidates for the 2010 Republican gubernatorial nomination are gearing up for next Tuesday’s “First in the State GOP Gubernatorial Debate” September 22 at the Newberry Opera House at 7:00 pm. With the drama currently being played out by Governor Mark Sanford who is battling to finish out his term amid allegations of misconduct and an ongoing investigation by the State Ethics Commission, Clemson University Political Science professor and Republican party political consultant David Woodard says the GOP faces an uphill battle to retain the governorship regardless of whether Sanford ultimately resigns or is impeached.
 “I think in the mind of voters, its a plague on all your houses and just because you have an “R” out beside your name and you’re down there in Columbia, that cesspool where all this has been going on, you’re tainted by it.”
Announced GOP candidates Congressman Gresham Barrett, state Senator Larry Grooms, state Representative Nikki Haley, and state Attorney General Henry McMaster will be joined on the stage for debate by Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer,  who has pledged that he will not run if Sanford resigns or is impeached.
 Woodard says unfortunately for members of the state GOP, voters tend to paint all politicians or politicians of a particular party with a broad brush and the Sanford scandal continues to cast an ugly shadow on the republican candidates. “Somebody like Henry McMaster, who is the Attorney General and running for governor and who is down there in Columbia and having to issue his opinions and all this kind of stuff is still seen in the eyes of the average voter as somebody that is caught up in this; and I think Andre Bauer, Nikki Haley, Henry McMaster, everybody down there in Columbia has this patina of scandal about them.”
Woodard says Congressman Gresham Barrett may find it advantageous that he spends a lot of his time in Washington, D.C.
Woodard says in his view the Sanford saga could jump start a renaissance for the South Carolina Democratic Party and usher the end of Republican dominance in Palmetto State politics. “The republicans must get through their primary and then they face, I think,  a difficult general election where the democratic nominee will be getting support out of Washingon and other places around the country, so I think it’s uphill all the way for the republicans.”