Why The Nikki Haley v. Gresham Barrett Runoff Will Happen

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Reporting politics in South Carolina is like trying to figure out who stole the finger paints in an elementary school classroom. Rumors abound. The culprits play coy. Cliques conspire to eschew blame.

So it was not surprising last night when word began circulating that J. Gresham Barrett, who finished a distant second in the GOP gubernatorial primary, planned to bow out of the race, handing the nomination to Nikki Haley, who already garnered nearly 50 percent of the vote. But it was also information that demanded significant skepticism. One Barrett adviser I spoke with on Tuesday was bullish on Barrett’s chances in a two person race, which could posit Haley, a protege of Gov. Mark Sanford, as more of the same, not change. Last night, when I spoke with Haley after her victory speech, she said she had had no contact with Barrett, not a congratulatory text or call.

This morning, as Politico’s Ben Smith and CNN’s Peter Hamby have reported, Barrett came out with a clear declaration of intent: “We are in it for the long haul.”

If that is not enough to convince you, Adam Sorensen passes on this reported tidbit from South Carolina:

The state election people say if Barrett drops out before the runoff, McMaster would be on the ballot. If McMaster withdraws then Bauer would automatically fill his spot and so on. The runoff would only be canceled if every candidate (except Haley) withdraws beforehand.

The runoff election is scheduled for June 22.