Tuesday is the day that will determine the political future of former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.
Voters in South Carolina’s First District go to the polls Tuesday to pick their next U.S. Representative, and Sanford and his Democratic opponent Elizabeth Colbert Busch are heading into election day neck and neck.
Sanford had a rough April. A report surfaced that his ex-wife had charged him with trespassing, and the National Republican Congressional Committee subsequently pulled support for his campaign. The following week, a Public Policy Polling poll found Sanford trailing Colbert Busch by a whopping nine points in a heavily Republican district.
But the former South Carolina governor has rallied in a big way.
He went on the attack against Colbert Busch, tying her to national Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who according to a Public Policy Polling (PPP) poll released Sunday, has a paltry 24 percent approval rating in the First District of South Carolina. Colbert Busch portrays herself as a moderate, but national Democrats have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into her campaign.
The strategy worked. The PPP poll found that Sanford had closed the gap and was in a statistical dead heat with Colbert Busch, narrowly leading her 47 percent to 46 percent.
Heading into election day, PPP wrote, Sanford has the “momentum.”
After the NRCC abandonment, a Washington, D.C. fundraiser for Sanford that would have featured Republican members of the state’s congressional delegation was cancelled. But last week, prominent Republicans declared themselves in Sanford’s corner. Last week, he received the endorsements of the Palmetto State’s two Senators, Lindsey Graham, and Tim Scott. Later that day, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley held a fundraiser for him.
Even Sanford’s former opponents are falling in line. Teddy Turner, a primary opponent of Sanford’s, told The Daily Caller he is actively campaigning to get the former governor elected. State Sen. Larry Grooms, another primary contender, is also urging voters to turn out for Sanford, and has disavowed a write-in campaign launched by a conservative group that is urging voters to support Grooms over Sanford.
Not everyone, however, is so positive. Attorney Curtis Bostic, who lost to Sanford in a primary run-off, told TheDC that even if Sanford won Tuesday, “the party has lost” because of the division his candidacy created within the party.
“I think that people that were very unhappy with his candidacy are going to be less likely to continue to strongly be part of the party system,” said Bostic, who said that he had always expected there would be something problematic like the trespassing report, said that in fact, “I was a little surprised there weren’t more things that surfaced … maybe three or four.”
Special elections tend to have low turnout, which makes their results hard to predict. The support of Graham, Scott, and Haley, South Carolina Republican consultant Luke Byars opined to TheDC, “is a pretty good signal that Republicans are coming out.”
But heading into Tuesday, it is anybody’s game.