south carolina gop map
The GOP presidential primary (1/19/08): McCain’s counties in blue, Huckabee’s in red. Problems with voting machines in Horry County (Myrtle Beach) delayed those returns.
Source: State of South Carolina

Arizona Senator John McCain won South Carolina’s Republican primary yesterday, attracting 33% of the statewide vote. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, McCain’s only close competitor in the race, took 30%.

McCain won all the state’s metro areas except Greenville and Spartanburg in the northwest. He ran especially strong along the coast, beating Huckabee nearly 3-1 in Charleston.

But McCain also won in South Carolina’s most rural counties.

SC rural GOP vote
Sen. John McCain won the largest share of non-metro votes in the South Carolina Republican primary.

He took 36% of the vote in the Palmetto State’s 25 non-metro counties (the most rural), over Huckabee’s 30%. Again, McCain prevailed in the coastal areas, where his record as a veteran and former prisoner of war may have helped turn out voters in the vicinity of South Carolina’s large military bases. According to an AP poll, veterans accounted for nearly a quarter of the vote, and “McCain had about a 10-point advantage among them.”

In Upland South Carolina, Mike Huckabee drew his strongest support. Huckabee also was the highest vote getter in the state’s exurban areas, those counties within greater metro areas that still retain rural characteristics. For example, in York County just south of Charlotte, NC, Huckabee took 36% of the vote, to McCain’s 24%. Overall, voters in these exurban counties went 35% for Huckabee, 31% for McCain.

SC exurban GOP

In South Carolina communities close to cities, Mike Huckabee won the most votes.

There was evidence of a smear campaign against McCain in Chester County, along the North Carolina line. The News and Reporter received a pamphlet from a group called “Vietnam Veterans Against McCain” challenging McCain’s military record and alleging that the Arizona Senator “is using his time spent as a prisoner of war as a sympathy ploy to gain votes.” Former P.O.W.’s quickly countered the charges, and the McCain campaign office referred to the maneuver as a “shadowy” and “vicious attack.” Huckabee won in Chester County.

In Horry County (Myrtle Beach) voting machines malfunctioned, causing disarray in some 20 precincts. There were reports of some voters casting their ballots on paper towels.

In South Carolina, voters do not register with parties. Whoever is registered in South Carolina and did not cast a vote in yesterday’s GOP contest is eligible to vote in the Democratic primary next Saturday, Jan. 26. A large turnout is expected.

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