COLUMBIA — Gov. Henry McMaster and Greenville businessman John Warren are heading for a testy runoff to win the South Carolina Republican governor nod.
Here is what voters can expect before casting ballots on June 26 besides a fuss over a Facebook "like:"
Mr. Outside vs. Mr. Inside
McMaster first ran for office in 1986 when Warren was 7 — a contrast that makes their pitches to voters simple.
The 71-year-old governor will continue to promote his experience as a former U.S. attorney, attorney general and lieutenant governor.
The 39-year-old political newcomer will pledge a government makeover since he owes no favors in the Statehouse.
These arguments will decide who faces Democratic nominee James Smith in November.
The key for Warren, who pitched himself as a conservative Marine combat veteran, is building his edge in the GOP-rich Upstate that spurred his second-place primary finish.
McMaster is aiming to dominate the rest of the state, like he did to become the primary's top vote-getter. And he could get help from one man.
Word about President Donald Trump coming back to South Carolina to put his arm around McMaster is growing. Nothing is nailed down.
The president's endorsement is very important to the governor. Snippets from the president's 25-minute speech during a Greenville campaign fundraiser have been the anchor of his campaign ads, and McMaster mentions his ties to the White House frequently on the trail.
McMaster does not have the typical resume of a Trump candidate. He's not a newcomer or a fringe politician. His endorsement of the New York billionaire in the 2016 presidential race was such a surprise because McMaster represented the mainstream in the state party.
Warren seems more like a Trump candidate. He's new to politics, a business owner and promising to shake up the state government.
But it's McMaster who could get another photo opp with the president — or at least another tweet.
The finalists will get one direct shot at each other on Wednesday during a televised debate from the Newberry Opera House.
McMaster has shown restraint in two previous primary debates with one exception, when he revealed that rival Catherine Templeton sought to be his running mate before announcing her own run for governor.
Warren joined rivals during the primary debates in dinging McMaster for his longtime relationship with Statehouse corruption probe target Richard Quinn, whom Warren called "the biggest criminal in our state for the past 30 years."
That's a bit of hyperbole, but this company-you-keep argument really is not a vote-changer since McMaster has not been tied to the probe himself.
Wednesday's debate could be very different — and very heated. The number of GOP candidates on the debate stage will drop from five to two, opening more opportunities for give-and-take and verbal arrows.
Ads, ads, ads
Voters will get know the candidates' faces.
McMaster and Warren have bought a ton of TV time over the next two weeks on newscasts, national morning shows, soap operas and game shows. Their ads are generally positive, talking about their strengths and hopes for the state.
But voters already are seeing some standard candidate bashing. The Palmetto PAC, the pro-McMaster group behind the "fired" ad that Templeton tried to have taken down during the primary, is airing a minute-long spot that calls Warren not conservative enough.
That's an interesting choice. It was a tactic that did not work for Templeton who finished third in the primary, despite being in the race a year longer than Warren. No third-party groups have aired ads backing Warren's bid.