Tuesday affirmed some political observers predictions that South Carolinas record number of petition candidates would face uphill battles with voters casting ballots along party lines.
But more of a twist for S.C. voters was President Barack Obamas re-election overRepublican challenger Mitt Romney, who won the state.
On Wednesday, South Carolina political analysts shared their observations from Election Day and what the outcome means for politics in the Palmetto State and the nation.
In statewide races, a real question heading into Tuesday was whether petition candidates could break voters of the habit of casting straight-party ballots, which would pass over petition candidates.
State courts removed nearly 250 candidates statewide from Junes primary races for improperly filed paperwork. Many of those candidates, who made the ballot as petition candidates not affiliated with any party, lost on Tuesday despite a campaign saturated with information about petition candidates and their plight.
The takeaway isnt too far off from the prediction.
Petition candidates cant win, said Clemson University political scientist and GOP consultant Dave Woodard Wednesday.
Thats especially true in a general election, he said. Grass-roots activism, the trademark of the tea party, works better in a primary where the target audience is narrow, he said. In a general election, there are more voters to reach, which requires more money.
Even an extended campaign season, which Rick Whisonant thought would boost petition candidates, didnt help them against York County Councils Republican and Democratic incumbents in a county where 46 percent of voters cast ballots for their parties.
Party rules, said Whisonant, who teaches political science at York Technical College. Party label and straight-party voting is very much part of our political culture.
Add that to districts that have been brilliantly gerrymandered to enhance the majority party's fortunes, and many state contests go without any competition at all, he said.
Only six of more than 30 petition candidates won S.C. Statehouse races. Most of those wins were against other petition candidates.
The biggest upset was petition candidate Katrina Shealys win over S.C. Sen. Jake Knotts, a Lexington County Republican who has served the Legislature since 1995.
Shealy was sued over improperly filed paperwork after filing to run against Knotts in the GOP primary. Court rulings followed that removed other candidates. Anger toward Knotts, who many blamed for the ouster, led to grass-roots efforts to mount successful petition campaigns against incumbents.
Raye Felder of Fort Mill, who wanted to run as a Republican for the newly formed S.C. House District 26 seat, was the only victorious York County petition candidate. She defeated Libertarian Jeremy Walters. There was no Republican or Democrat in the race.
Winthrop University political scientist and pollster Scott Huffmon agreed it was and will continue to be stunningly difficult to inform voters about petition candidates and harder still to keep them from choosing Republicans or Democrats out of familiarity with a party.
One way a petition candidate could still win?
When there's overwhelming public attention to some scandal or some problem about an incumbent, Huffmon said.
GOP soul searching
Woodard, who co-wrote a book with South Carolinas tea party leader, U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, said the Republican Party has some soul searching to do after Obamas win Tuesday.
Romney was a strong candidate for such a devastating loss, Woodard said. Hes a decent standard bearer, not a flawed candidate in any way, didn't make big mistakes, picked a strong running mate and raised plenty of money.
But Romney just got blasted in the national election, he said. These battleground states, there was no battle there. It was like Gettysburg. It was over at halftime.
Now the GOP will have to adapt to how the country has changed in 30 years, he said, with a more diverse electorate and more women voting.
Republicans look to President Ronald Reagan as their last great leader, but for some, thats like talking about John Adams or something, Woodard said.
On a lighter note, Woodard said the GOP has been through this a lot of times and things are never as bleak as they look the day after the election.
In addition to hispanics and other minorities, women are becoming increasingly important in national politics, as the huge gender gap in the presidential race illustrates, said Karen Kedrowski, chair of political science at Winthrop.
The same demographic trends happening nationally will eventually impact South Carolina, she added, but it will take longer.
Women winning state posts and Shealy, whose win gained her entry to an all-male S.C. Senate, are examples, she said.
We still have a long way to go, but these are all very positive signs.
Jamie Self 803-329-4062