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Political expert weighs in on debate outcome, issues

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Everyone is claiming a victory a night after the gubernatorial candidates went after each other in the first of two ABC News 4 and Post and Courier debates. There were plenty of heated topics and a political expert weighed in Wednesday about the issue that may draw more voters to the poll.

Many agree Gov. Nikki Haley has the most to lose in the debates. While her opponents attacked her on every topic, a political science expert said Wednesday that there's one issue that will get the public's attention more than others.

"I look at jobs like I look at sex. You shouldn't brag about it if you got to pay for it," said Steve French during Tuesday night's debate.

French got some laughs when he referred to Haley's job creations claims. But he and his opponents are serious about the topic.

"I will bring our Medicaid tax dollars to this state. That will create 45,000 new jobs in this state," said Sen. Vincent Sheheen Tuesday.

But Haley countered with statistics from her time in office.

"We are proud to say that GDP which really focuses on our economy has grown by 12 percent," Haley said.

The one-liners and barbs were quick and fast-flying, but Associate professor Dr. Scott Buchanan at The Citadel said Wednesday no one candidate made a major mistake.

"I just don't think anybody made a gaffe. When all is said and done I think everybody sort of held their own," he said.

But the issue of jobs is the critical talking point in this year's race for the governor's mansion.

"I think if you look at the polling data that's not asking who you're going to vote for, I think most South Carolinians are concerned about the economy," he said.

Morgan Bruce Reeves made big promises in the jobs arena, telling voters who tuned in across the state he would double the salaries of firemen and school teachers.

Tom Ervin, however, focused his attacks on Haley's performance.

"Governor Haley has turned her back on state employees and retirees time and time again," Ervin said.

Buchanan says other issues like funding retirement obligations for state workers can attract support of some voters who might otherwise stay away from the polls on Election Day.

"If you look, Haley and Sheheen are trying to reach an audience that is just now starting to tune in, so to speak, into the election and are starting to really think about this. So they're trying to reach that group that maybe has not paid as much of attention," Buchanan said.

Still, he believes the first debate's victory -- and the election -- goes to Haley.

"I suspect when all is said and done that she'll wind up winning re-election."

But he says there is still a lot of time between now and Election Day. Buchanan says one big gaffe by either Haley or Sheheen can significantly change the outcome of the race.

There is one more gubernatorial debate on Tuesday, Oct. 21. It is being held at Furman University and members of the university's faculty, staff, and student body can request tickets.

It will be broadcast across the state through ABC News 4 and live streamed on abcnews4.com.

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