COLUMBIA — The time has come for some South Carolina governor candidates to go home.
Voters will eliminate at least half of the eight-candidate field in Tuesday's primary, as runoffs are likely in both the Republican and Democratic races for the state's top job as no hopeful is expected to break the 50 percent of the vote threshold.
Here's who stands the best chances of staying in the election, listed in their predicted order of finish:
Results to watch: Greenville, Spartanburg and Anderson counties — the Upstate GOP strongholds where winning candidates need to do well. Horry County, home to Myrtle Beach and the state's hub of Republican retirees.
Henry McMaster: What a difference a bus tour makes. The governor from Columbia was talking runoff before he took a four-day, 15-stop trip last week, but now he's confident he could win outright. Hang on tight, governor. Even with Donald Trump's backing — "A special guy," the president tweeted Saturday — there's too much support for his rivals to get him past the 50 percent-plus one mark on Tuesday. But if he can get beyond 40 percent, a June 26 runoff looks less daunting.
John Warren: Surging in the polls like a Beyonce single, the Greenville businessman was polling at 1 percent just two months ago. Warren checks a lot of boxes: business owner, Marine veteran and political outsider. He brought in pollsters and strategists who worked with Trump's 2016 campaign with $3 million of his cash to develop a slick, tight message that's reaching GOP voters. Did Warren enter the race too late (near Valentine's Day) to win? Perhaps. But it's an impressive debut.
Catherine Templeton: The Mount Pleasant attorney was the "outsider" of choice until Warren's arrival. Still, Templeton has built a solid base of support in 18 months of campaigning, including from many Nikki Haley backers. Her longer time on the trail has given voters more chances to see her successes — and fumbles. And the ads from the former two-time state agency chief have been the election's conversation starters: shooting the snake. The race for the second runoff spot should be a close call.
Kevin Bryant: Political observers have wondered how the witty, experienced lieutenant governor could have made a difference in the GOP race if he had the kind of money as the top three. But the Anderson pharmacist didn't. Bryant does not have the support outside the Upstate to challenge on Tuesday.
Yancey McGill: The first candidate in the race (he joined in March 2016) is expected to finish last. No money for ads and a long history as a Democrat doom the race's nice guy.
Results to watch: Richland and Charleston counties, the party's election bellwether spots. Orangeburg County, a signal of interest among the state's black voters.
James Smith: Somehow, this should have been more simple for a two-decade state lawmaker and combat veteran with an endorsement from former Vice President Joe Biden running against two relative unknowns. But if there's a lesson from the primary, Smith needs to get known better, too. He has a shot of winning outright, but a runoff would not be an utter shock. If his team can get his voters to polls, Smith might be able to rest for two weeks.
Marguerite Willis: The year of the woman is helping the Florence attorney. She is making the race interesting with her pledges to fight for equal pay and against sexual harassment. And her blunt anti-Trump talk — he's a racist and sexist, she says — is winning over some progressives. But Willis has little else politically going for her. Even if she gets into a runoff, she lacks the support or operation to have a huge chance of beating Smith.
Phil Noble: The Charleston tech consultant appeals to African-Americans with his background as the son of a Civil Rights preacher. Noble also is talking tough against Smith on everything from guns to the Statehouse corruption probe. Like Willis, though, he has little in the way of major endorsements (outside of Alabama Sen. Doug Jones). And Noble suffers from a lack of cash to spread his message during a potential runoff.