Once again, South Carolina stood with its Southern state cousins in a presidential race.
And once again, the results show the rest of the country may be passing South Carolina by in determining who sits in the White House.
Except for Florida and Virginia, the Solid South remained firmly Republican, a move that put South Carolina on the outside looking in, in terms of November relevance.
Political watchers said the sideline position comes as other states made more drastic leaps to shape their turnout, drawing more younger voters, Hispanics and college-educated females to the polls.
“If Maryland wants to approve gay marriage, so be it; we’re not going to change our principles,” Clemson University political scientist and Republican strategist Dave Woodard said in summing up the state’s bedrock conservative attitudes and the price it means.
“If we have to be isolated, we’ll just be isolated,” he added.
Maine and Maryland became the first states in the nation to approve same-sex marriage through popular vote.
Locally, area Republicans are scratching their heads as to where the party goes now after losing two presidential races.
Charleston County GOP Chairwoman Lin Bennett said she’s no fan of the party’s “100 percenters” wing — those who value ideological purity above all. On the other hand, she noted, “We hear people talking about the fact we need to be more moderate. Well, we’ve run two moderate candidates (John McCain and Mitt Romney) and they haven’t been successful.”
Michael Smith, a Charleston conservative who backed Texas Gov. Rick Perry and then former Speaker Newt Gingrich in the January primary, said the Republican Party must re-evaluate its strategy and talent.
“The GOP decided it made sense to bring a dull spoon to a knife fight,” he said.
Thomas F. Schaller, associate professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said South Carolina is one of several Southern states that face the predicament of being historically rigidly conservative, while other states are seeming to become more moderate — and therefore politically attractive on a national scale.
Virginia, Florida and North Carolina have all shown signs of easing in their political molds, he said, which has largely been a product of the native-born population changing.
Meanwhile, top state Republicans say not to worry. They point to Ronald Reagan and two Bush presidencies as eras when South Carolina was the pace car for the rest of America.
“We are a center-right nation, we are a center-right state,” state Republican Party Chairman Chad Connelly said.
He added “the pendulum is always swinging.”