Democrat Vincent Sheheen is running as hard as he can for governor in the final few weeks before the election, trying to make up the 60,000-vote margin in his race with Gov. Nikki Haley in 2010.
But perhaps his fate was sealed as soon as he decided to take on Haley a second time. Sheheen is struggling to get traction from voters who already know him. While Haley has weathered several small scandals, there is no big issue to hang on her as she runs for a second term.
Sheheen also faces independent candidate in Tom Ervin. Their campaign war chests are similar - each has about $3.5 million - although Ervin is using his own money, while Sheheen had to raise his. Both offer a lighter brand of conservative than the governor, and both want South Carolina to take money for Medicaid expansion, want to increase teacher pay and think Haley is a poor manager who only reacts when there is a crisis.
Ervin gives voters that don't like Haley, especially those who lean a bit conservative, a fresh choice, said Scott Buchanan, a political scientist at The Citadel.
"Once you get the nomination for an office one time, it's not that common to come back four years later and get it again. Sheheen is showing why that can be a struggle," Buchanan said.
As the days to the election dwindle, Sheheen isn't slowing down. He makes two to three campaign stops most days, hammering home a message that the Republican governor ignored education, chases poor paying jobs that do nothing to improve people's lives, inflates those job announcement numbers and is too ethically challenged to lead South Carolina for four more years.
"If people who want honest government show up at the polls, I'll win the election," Sheheen said.
Polls aren't too friendly to that idea. A survey of likely voters by Winthrop University at the end of September had Haley at 44 percent with Sheheen about 10 percentage points behind. Recent polls have looked worse.