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Poll: McMaster holds double-digit lead over primary challengers

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State of the State (copy)

Gov. Henry McMaster, right, smiles at Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant before delivering the state of the state in January. AP Photo/Sean Rayford 

A new poll released Sunday shows South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster now has a 22 percentage-point lead over his closest GOP primary challenger, former two-time state agency head Catherine Templeton.

It still wouldn't be enough for the incumbent to avoid a runoff.

The results come from a poll of 800 S.C. registered voters — 400 Republicans and 400 Democrats.

Conducted by Target-Insyght, a nonpartisan Michigan-based research and polling firm, the survey found 46 percent of South Carolina voters would cast their ballot for McMaster if they could vote today, compared to 22 percent who said they would vote for Templeton.

Another 6 percent of voters said they would vote for Lt. Gov Kevin Bryant, with 4 percent saying they would vote for former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill and 1 percent supporting Greenville businessman John Warren.

Another 22 percent said they remain unsure.

"Your current governor seems to be riding high on his name recognition and his connection to Trump," Michigan pollster Ed Sarpolus told The Post and Courier. "So far, it's working."

Meanwhile, Democratic gubernatorial candidates are in a dead heat.

Despite a bevy of high-profile endorsements for state Rep. James Smith, including one from former Vice President Joe Biden, the poll found Smith is tied with Charleston businessman Phil Noble at 27 percent. 

Florence antitrust attorney Marguerite Willis, who last week released a campaign ad in which she called President Donald Trump a racist, had the support of 21 percent of the registered voters polled.

Sarpolus, who has been conducting polls since 1972, told The Post and Courier he became interested in South Carolina's gubernatorial race while his firm was comparing President Donald Trump's favorability in Michigan compared to other states.

The Target-Insyght survey, which was conducted via landlines and cellphones from April 3 to 5, has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Senior Politics Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is the senior politics reporter at The Post and Courier. Since moving to Charleston in 2016, Byrd has broken national news, told powerful stories and covered a dramatic presidential primary and multiple high-stakes congressional races.