Nothing short of a last-minute disaster by Republicans seems likely to save the hopes of South Carolina Democrats looking for a power shift in Columbia.
That's usually the reality every election season in the Palmetto State, but recent polls make that particularly true this year.
The ballot in November will partially be a case of of déjà vu as the governor's race will be a rehashing of the 2010 campaign with S.C. Sen. Vincent Sheheen once again trying to beat Nikki Haley.
This time, Haley obviously has a record to run on after four years as governor, and according to a poll from The Post and Courier and Charleston's ABC News 4, she isn't an absolute lock to win.
Haley holds onto a 4-point lead, 46-42, over Sheheen in their latest polling, with a 3 point margin of error.
So the window of opportunity for Sheheen isn't entirely boarded up, and among the other races, the crystal ball should give him the best chance among Democrats to claim statewide office. Many more voters should recognize his name and the race in general has garnered greater national coverage as a somewhat competitive race.
But it will likely take a major mistake by Haley or her administration between now and election day for Sheheen to capture the governor's mansion.
This isn't entirely out of the realm of possibility, as no elected official is infallible. And Sheheen's campaign has already made Haley's handling of the hacking at the state's Department of Revenue one of the centerpieces of his campaign.
Although no one in the state should hope for something like that to happen again, another mess up of that magnitude by her administration would certainly be a way for Democrats to pull voters away from Haley.
The other races this November probably won't be as competitive as the governor's race, but the Democrats have put forward viable opposition unlike in some years past. The pathetically comical 2012 U.S. Senate run by the highly unqualified Alvin Green certainly comes to mind as far as the Democrat's recent track record.
Perhaps the most notable Democrat other than Sheheen this year is S.C. Sen. Brad Hutto, who is running against Lindsey Graham for a spot in the U.S. Senate.
Rumblings across the state appear to be that Hutto may be using his run as a springboard to later win a higher office – maybe as governor. In an interview with the Aiken Standard, Hutto frankly explained that anytime someone runs for statewide office, it's an opportunity to increase name recognition, but he's still in the race with the goal of winning.
“I didn't get in this race with the idea that it wasn't winnable. I recognize what the polling shows as far as the approval rating for the current senator,” Hutto said. “I think I've got something to offer, and I think it's time for a change.”
While Graham's approval rating barely cracks 40 percent, it's easy to recognize Hutto is in for an uphill battle, particularly with the incumbent's strength among conservative-leaning independents.
Also, in South Carolina, any candidate has an advantage when they have an “R” for Republican next to their name on the ballot.
It shouldn't come as a shock that a Democrat hasn't beaten a GOP incumbent in the state since 1998, and for right now, there aren't any special circumstances to show that's going to change this November.
Michael Ulmer is a North Augusta native and the opinions page editor for the Aiken Standard. Follow him on Twitter @MikeUlmer.
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