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Governor candidates making last moves

Gubernatorial candidates are making a final push to get votes throughout the state with the primary less than a week away.

On Wednesday, Republican candidate and S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster set out from the Grand Strand on an RV campaign tour in advance of the Tuesday primary.

He met with more than a dozen supporters and potential voters at Hot Stacks in Myrtle Beach early in the morning before heading to the Applewood House of Pancakes in Pawleys Island for another stop.

"We want to talk to the people, and I want them to be sure that they know that I am proud of South Carolina, that I love it," he said.

In a short speech to the group at Hot Stacks, McMaster talked about improving economic development by using the ports and technical college system better and creating a separate state agency that will focus on tourism.

"Those are the assets that we have, and I want to see that they're utilized from a strategy at the top," he said.

McMaster said he would pressure the congressionaldelegation to build Interstate 73, which would give the Grand Strand its first direct interstate.

McMaster said that his chances are looking good for the primary, but that like his opponents, he will continue to work hard.

The Republican campaigns - those of U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett of Westminster, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer of Greenville and McMaster -- are racing to escape the publicity blackout cast over them by a week-plus of allegations surrounding front-runner state Rep. Nikki Haley of Lexington.

The Democratic campaigns of state education Superintendent Jim Rex of Fairfield County and state Sen. Robert Ford of Charleston are pinning their hopes on recent polls showing most Democratic voters remain undecided on who they will vote for, despite the huge spending advantage of Democratic front-runner Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Kershaw County.

"We're going to be all over the state, talking about the issues that matter to South Carolinians," said Luke Byars, Barrett's campaign manager, saying those issues are job creation and enforcement of immigration laws. Barrett's campaign trip didn't include any stops on the Grand Strand as of Wednesday.

Haley, a Lexington Republican, has been at the center of allegations by Will Folks, a blogger and former spokesman for Republican Gov. Mark Sanford and a former political consultant for Haley, that Folks had an "inappropriate physical relationship" with Haley, a married mother of two. On Wednesday, another affair allegation surfaced from a member of Bauer's campaign staff.

Haley, who has bolted to the front of the four-person Republican race on the strength of tea party-libertarian support and the endorsements of former first lady Jenny Sanford and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, categorically has denied the claims.

Recent polls have shown Haley with a double-digit lead.

Bauer, in the final week before the primary, plans on "taking it to the people, as he always does," said campaign manager Rod Shealy.

That means voters can expect to see Bauer out on his trademark "roadside chats" on mornings and evenings in various parts of the state. There will likely be a runoff in the Republican primary, and Byars and Shealy said the goal is positioning their candidates to make it to the runoff.

Democrat Rex, who reported just $51,000 in campaign contributions this quarter, launched a TV ad this weekend, his first of the campaign.

The Rex ad takes aim at the state's Republican leadership, including those seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination, and concludes the GOP has left the state in a "mess."

"Jim Rex is not afraid to connect himself with the president," said campaign manager Zeke Stokes, adding Rex is aiming to connect with undecided Democratic voters, who, recent polls show, still are "sitting on their hands."

Those polls also show that while Camden's Sheheen is the Democratic front-runner, his lead is not insurmountable, Stokes said.

"This race is very much a dead heat, with all the undecideds," said Stokes. "How they break will very much determine the outcome."

Staff writer Adva Saldinger and McClatchy Newspapers contributed to this report.

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