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Race Ratings: GOP Strengthens Grip on South Carolina

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Freshman Rep. Mick Mulvaney had a tough race unseating a longtime Democratic incumbent in 2010, but he should have a much easier contest in 2012 in his redrawn district.

Twenty years ago, South Carolina’s Congressional delegation had four Democrats and two Republicans.

When Rep. John Spratt lost in the GOP wave election of 2010, Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn became the only House Democrat left in the Palmetto State’s six-person delegation. It’s likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future: one Democrat representing the strongly Democratic majority-minority 6th district and Republicans representing the rest of the state.

Over the past two decades, the state has shifted to become solidly Republican. Even in the Democratic wave election of 2008, every district except the 6th went against Barack Obama by a wide margin.

The new Congressional map signed into law by Gov. Nikki Haley (R) on Monday adds the new district allotted to the state in reapportionment in the northeastern part of the state. The new 7th district  strongly favors Republicans, and the new map also strengthens the districts of GOP Reps. Joe Wilson and Mick Mulvaney.

Democrats aren’t optimistic about their prospects in the state this cycle, but they think over time attitudes may evolve.

“I’m just hoping the climate will change so that people will look more favorably at a two-party state, rather than a one-party state,” said former Rep. Liz Patterson, who was one of the four Democrats representing the state two decades ago.

The new map is likely to face a lawsuit from the state Democratic Party and, under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, must be pre-cleared by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia or the Department of Justice before it can be enforced.

1st district
Incumbent: Tim Scott
1st term (65 percent)
Rating: Safe Republican

The addition of the 7th district to the Palmetto State’s map moved the freshman’s district south along the coast. It now includes the city of Hilton Head and parts of Charleston County.

While the 1st changes geographically, it remains similar politically. Scott won with 65 percent of the vote in 2010 and is likely to win easily again.

Asked Wednesday whether he was confident he could garner a similar vote total this cycle, he told Roll Call that he would be campaigning hard for his second term.

“I’m comfortable that I’m going to work my butt off,” Scott said. “Our goal is to make sure [voters] know who I am ... so that they have an understanding of what makes my heart tick. And the politics will take care of itself.”

2nd district
Incumbent: Joe Wilson
5th term (54 percent)
Rating: Safe Republican

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