South Carolina has become a Republican bastion and generally demands strong conservative values, fiscally and socially, from its statewide elected officials. In previous campaigns, abortion and religion have played large roles in the electorate's mood. But the state is not monolithic. South Carolina does not have party voter registration, allowing independents to participate in either the Democratic or Republican primaries.
The regional breakdown that used to find the social conservatives upstate, the national security and moderate Republicans in the coastal low country and the more pragmatic Republicans in midlands area in and around Columbia has become scrambled. Retirees and young transplants have moved into South Carolina and the economy has become a priority of almost every voting bloc, including the tea party.
Tea party activists are too disparate and disunited to influence the election as a political force. But Barry Wynn, a former state GOP chairman and Spartanburg businessman who raised money for Rudy Giuliani in 2008, said tea partyers can't be taken for granted: "A lot of people agree with the goals and concerns of the tea party, and they make a difference."