South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) won a runoff election to secure the Republican nomination for a full four-year term on Tuesday, hours after President TrumpDonald TrumpGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Super PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal MORE held a campaign-style rally on McMaster's behalf.
McMaster led businessman John Warren (R) by a margin of 54 to 46 percent, with 84 percent of the precincts reported. The Associated Press projected that McMaster would win the race.
McMaster, a former attorney general and lieutenant governor who was the first statewide elected official to endorse Trump during the 2016 primaries, owes his governorship to Trump. McMaster took South Carolina's top job after Trump tapped his predecessor, Nikki HaleyNikki HaleyObama looks to give new momentum to McAuliffe US rejoins UN Human Rights Council, reversing Trump exit Smarkets betting site makes Trump favorite in 2024 MORE, to become the American ambassador to the United Nations.
But McMaster had struggled to keep the job. He fended off attacks from three other well-funded candidates, who criticized him for his long tenure in state government.
Warren, 39, making his first run for political office, cast himself as an outsider who could clean up rampant corruption in the South Carolina legislature that has led to several resignations and lawsuits in recent years.
McMaster took just 42 percent in the June 12 primary, compared with 28 percent for Warren. Both the third- and fourth-place finishers, Catherine Templeton and Kevin Bryant, endorsed Warren.
Trump and his White House team invested heavily in McMaster's success. The president tweeted about McMaster ten times in the month of June, and Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceObama looks to give new momentum to McAuliffe The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Manchin, Sanders in budget feud; Biden still upbeat Biden, Trump tied in potential 2024 match-up: poll MORE traveled to South Carolina over the weekend to stump with the incumbent.
"He's a fighter. He's tough. He's strong," Trump said of McMaster at Monday's rally near Columbia, which drew a crowd as large as 2,500.
McMaster enters the general election as a big favorite over the Democratic nominee, state Rep. James Smith (D). Smith took 62 percent of the vote in this month's primary election, avoiding a runoff, but he faces a tough road ahead in November. Democrats have won just one governor's race in the Palmetto State in the last 32 years.