DeMint Takes in $850K in Days Before S.C. Runoff

Posted June 18, 2004 at 6:16pm

Rep. Jim DeMint raised nearly $850,000 in the 10 days following the June 8 South Carolina Republican Senate primary, roughly $250,000 more than former Gov. David Beasley brought in during that period.

DeMint campaign manager Terry Sullivan said his candidate’s fundraising is a “sign of momentum” heading into Tuesday’s showdown.

“In a two-week runoff, you need money and momentum,” Sullivan added. “We clearly have both.”

Beasley loaned his campaign $250,000 Wednesday — just six days before tomorrow’s runoff — bringing his total for the period to approximately $600,000. He had not made any other personal donations as of press time Friday.

A source close to Beasley said the ex-governor had always planned to put personal money into the race, especially considering the independent expenditures by the Chamber of Commerce and the Club for Growth on DeMint’s behalf.

“Beasley is committed to keeping the playing field as level as it can be,” the source said.

DeMint is clearly the choice of Republicans in Congress, according to financial reports filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission.

He received runoff donations from Sens. Norm Coleman (Minn.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.), Sam Brownback (Kan.) and Trent Lott (Miss.) as well as Reps. Roger Wicker (Miss.), Ron Paul (Texas), Rob Portman (Ohio), Richard Burr (N.C.) and Pete Sessions (Texas).

DeMint and Beasley are locked in a heated two-week struggle following the six-candidate primary, in which Beasley took 37 percent of the vote while DeMint finished second with 26 percent. The winner will face state Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum (D) in November.

The Upstate Congressman narrowly nudged out real estate developer Thomas Ravenel for the second runoff spot; Ravenel enthusiastically endorsed DeMint the day after the primary and donated $2,000 to his campaign.

Polls for the two campaigns show drastically different results.

Beasley’s most recent survey, conducted by pollster Richard Quinn, showed him with a 47 percent to 39 percent edge.

In DeMint’s survey, which was in the field a week ago, he led the former governor by 4 points.

Most neutral observers believe DeMint will emerge victorious Tuesday thanks in large part to his developing strength in the Lowcountry, which is anchored in Charleston.

Neither DeMint nor Beasley has a natural political base in that area, but the Congressman has latched himself to Ravenel and Gov. Mark Sanford (R), two of the most popular politicians in the Lowcountry, in his runoff ads.

Former state Attorney General Charlie Condon (R), who placed fourth in the primary and has roots in the Lowcountry, endorsed DeMint on Friday.

Beasley responded with endorsements from former Secretary of State Jim Miles as well as state House Ways and Means Chairman Bobby Harrell.

In one DeMint ad, Ravenel says that he and the Congressman “share a lot of the same ideas,” adding that DeMint is “smart, principled … he keeps his word.”

In an ad paid for by the Washington, D.C.-based Club for Growth, a narrator notes that Sanford and DeMint have both been rated No. 1 in reducing wasteful spending while in Congress and that both have abided by their term-limits pledges.

“If you like Mark Sanford, send Jim DeMint to the Senate,” the ad concludes.

While Beasley campaign strategists agree that the Lowcountry is an important part of Tuesday’s winning equation, they believe they can lose the area and still win the race.

“David is stronger in his home region than DeMint is in his,” explained the Beasley source.

In the primary, Beasley won 61 percent in the Pee Dee, which takes in the state’s northeastern sections, while he narrowly defeated DeMint in the Upstate. DeMint’s campaign believes he will carry his home base in the Upstate on Tuesday.

With just 24 hours before voters go to the polls, both campaigns are also aggressively attacking one another.

“What’s happened to Jim DeMint?” asks the narrator of a Beasley ad, noting that the Congressman pledged to run a positive campaign “but then he launched the first negative ad of the runoff.”

The ad goes on to hit DeMint on his vote to give the president wider negotiating authority in trade agreements and for accepting $400,000 in money from political action committees. In previous campaigns Demint did not accept PAC money.

DeMint continues to question Beasley’s character in his campaign ads, hammering home the idea that the former governor has switched positions on the state lottery, trade and whether to fly the Confederate flag over the state Capitol.

The Beasley source said that by a 2-to-1 margin, South Carolina Republican primary voters believe free trade has been bad for the Palmetto State.

In one new ad, DeMint’s camp gets even more personal, reminding voters that Beasley “told those kids he was a world class sprinter.”

The commercial refers to an incident in 1985 when Beasley told a group of high school students in Rock Hill, S.C., that he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds and the 100-yard dash in 9.5 seconds. He later admitted he had gotten caught up in the moment and may have exaggerated his athletic feats.

“Well, Beasley never lets the facts get in the way of a good story,” the DeMint ad concludes.