Woulda, coulda, shoulda.
Archie Parnell’s narrow loss in South Carolina’s 5th District congressional race last Tuesday has some S.C. Democrats wondering what would have happened with just a little more national support.
Parnell’s race actually was tighter than the much more closely watched election that same day in Georgia’s 6th District. In the suburban Atlanta district, Democrat Jon Ossoff lost to Republican Karen Handel by 3.8 points. In South Carolina, Parnell only lost to Republican Ralph Norman by 3.2 percentage points.
Despite the similar results, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent a reported $5 million supporting Ossoff’s unsuccessful campaign, while committing just $275,000 to Parnell’s race.
But Sumter’s Parnell is not bitter.
Parnell said he understands the “tactical decision” that went into focusing on Georgia.
“You could always say, ‘We could have used a little bit extra,’ ” Parnell said. “It’s all ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’ at this point. … It’s history now.”
In the middle of the campaign, Parnell said he received an email from a Rock Hill friend saying he could tell the 5th District vote would be close.
“He said, ‘I wish the DCCC would spend a little bit more,’ ” Parnell recalled. “So I forwarded that to the DCCC and some others.”
Still, Parnell said national Democrats were helpful and engaged with his race. He added that too much outside spending could have backfired, as some see believe happened in Ossoff’s race.
“It could have stirred them up and engaged more Republicans,” Parnell said.
Still, after such a narrow loss, Parnell acknowledged there would be plenty of opportunities to say, “If we do this a little bit better, I’d be getting sworn in on Monday instead of Ralph.”
As to the future?
Parnell, who had never run for political office before, said he hadn’t made any decision on whether he will run again – either for the 5th District seat or any other office.
He did say campaign staffers are doing a “postmortem” on what his campaign did well and what it might have missed.
“I met people I never would have met (while campaigning). It was a very broadening experience,” Parnell said. At the same time, “It is stressful. It is demanding. So I’m still processing it.”
Parnell also said his wife and children, who were “wonderful throughout the campaign,” will weigh in on any future campaigns.
“Right now, we just want to catch our breath and get some rest.”
A once every few decades race?
S.C. voters don’t see races like Tuesday’s 5th District election often.
Since 1900, only two Palmetto State congressional races have been closer than Norman’s 3.2-percent victory over Parnell.
The website Smart Politics, affiliated with the University of Minnesota, crunched the numbers on 393 S.C. elections to the U.S. House over more than a century.
The closest S.C. race in the past 117 years was Republican Bob Inglis’ 2.9-point win over three-term Democratic incumbent Liz Patterson in 1992’s 4th District congressional race.
The next closest was another 5th District contest.
Freshman Democratic U.S. Rep. Ken Holland pulled out a 3.1-point victory over Republican and former New York Yankee Bobby Richardson in 1976.
For most of the 20th century, South Carolina saw remarkably uncompetitive congressional races. The average margin of victory in the races that Smart Politics looked at was 71.2 points.
That margin has closed since the modern Republican Party’s resurgence in the Palmetto State. Still, since 1964, the average margin of victory has been almost 40 points – 39.3 percentage points, to be exact.
SC Democrats keep their Cubs-like streak intact
If Parnell had been able to pull off a victory Tuesday, he would have broken another streak – of S.C. Democrats failing to flip GOP seats from red to blue.
Patterson’s 1986 win in the 4th District was the last time a S.C. Democrat took a congressional seat formerly held by a Republican – in her case, the seat formerly held by Republican Carroll Campbell, elected governor that year.
Republicans have held on to their seats in 61 races since then – the longest active streak in the country.
Missouri Democrats have lost 59 pickup opportunities since 1994, followed by Georgia Democrats at 50 in a row.
McMaster 2018 underway
Supporters of Gov. Henry McMaster have a chance to put their money were their mouths are.
McMaster’s gubernatorial campaign is holding a fundraiser luncheon on Thursday at Columbia’s Palmetto Club.
Tickets to the luncheon are $1,000 each, sponsorships are $2,000, and co-hosting the luncheon costs $3,500, the maximum allowable contribution for an individual.
The invitation also includes the option of sending a donation along with your regrets.