CAMDEN, SC (WIS) - One of the most hotly contested and highest profile races in the state is in its final days. Democratic Congressman John Spratt has represented District 5 since 1982, but Spratt's challenger, Mick Mulvaney, is pumped up about new poll results.
The poll out Wednesday on The Hill website suggests Mulvaney now has a substantial lead. State Republican Party Chair Karen Floyd quickly pounced on the poll as more evidence voters are rebelling against the president and the democratic agenda. That remains to be seen, but this is clearly an extremely tight race.
Campaigning Wednesday afternoon in Elgin, Republican state Sen. Mick Mulvaney was feeling good about new polling showing him with a ten point lead. "The energy levels are extraordinarily high," said Mulvaney. "The size of the crowds continue to stun me. We've had 150 people in Rembert, 85 people in Jefferson, 85 people in Cheraw."
Mulvaney worked the lunch crowd at the Old South Restaurant in Elgin, friendly territory as he tries to unseat one of the longest-serving and most influential congressmen in the country.
As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Spratt has major clout in Washington for now. But polls show Spratt in the fight of his political life with a GOP challenger riding a wave of pro-tea party and anti-incumbent sentiment.
"It is a horse race for sure," said Spratt. "There is a margin of error in all of these polls so I could be ahead or he could be ahead. But we're pretty much even. And the polls aren't really decided, I think. The race is going to be decided in the last lap."
"It's all about his voting record," said Mulvaney. "It's about cap and trade, it's about the bailouts, it's about health care. I know I sound like a broken record at this point. But we're simply pounding him on his voting record which is when you get right down to it, what you're supposed to pound somebody on in a race."
The contest has produced a blitz of TV ads, many paid for by national Democratic and Republican congressional organizations.
Spratt's latest features a series of voters, some suggesting that Spratt, a well-entrenched and relatively conservative Democrat according to some, could be a casualty of backlash against Washington.
"I don't always agree with everything John has done, but he's been a great benefit for South Carolina and its citizens," said the ad. "It would be a shame if we lost John Spratt just because people are unhappy with what's going on in Washington."
Spratt was trying to reinforce that message and others during campaign appearances Wednesday in Chesterfield, Hartsville, Florence and Camden. "I understand it and I'm trying to say to my people, experience and seniority do count," said Spratt. "That's what I offer. The ability to get the job done for South Carolina. Things I think everybody can agree is greater than he can propose."
District 5 includes all or part of 14 counties in north-central South Carolina, including Fairfield, Kershaw, Lee, Newberry and Sumter counties.
The Hill's poll has Mulvaney up ten percent on Spratt, with ten percent still undecided. University of Virginia political observer Larry Sabato has the race a tossup, as does the New York Times.
Mulvaney is taking note that even if Spratt holds on to his seat, those widely-predicted GOP gains in the House mean Spratt will lose his chairmanship of the Budget Committee.