With less than one week to go until the runoff for the Republican nomination in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, attorney Curtis Bostic is raking in some big name endorsements from out of state, but former Gov. Mark Sanford is holding onto a strong lead.
The two are vying for the seat vacated by former Rep. Tim Scott, who was appointed to the Senate when former Sen. Jim DeMint left to head the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
In the 16-person primary last week, no candidate won more than 50 percent of a vote, forcing a runoff between Sanford, the top vote-getter, and Bostic, who came in a distant second.
In the past two days, Bostic has been endorsed by one-time presidential candidate and former Sen. Rick Santorum, as well as conservative commentator Ann Coulter and the 60-Plus Association, by way of spokesman Pat Boone.
Santorum called Bostic’s second place finish “a win for the strength of his grassroots supporters and his robust conservative values,” and spent Wednesday in South Carolina campaigning for Bostic. During that time, he made a backhanded jab at Sanford and his “values.” The former governor left office surrounded by a cloud of scandal after he disappeared from the state, and upon his return, was forced to reveal that he was having an affair with an Argentine woman who is now his fiancé.
“I know I’m going to get the question about Curtis’ rival,” Santorum said, according to the Charlotte Observer. “I believe in redemption. I believe in second chances. I have lost races for president and the Senate and I believe people can come back and serve. But the choice here for the people of the Lowcountry is, ‘Who is the best person who can represent you and your values in Washington, D.C.?'”
Coulter’s endorsement of Bostic, which came in the form of a tweet on Tuesday night, was no surprise: She penned a column last week in which she referred to Sanford as “the Todd Akin of South Carolina,” referring to the former Missouri Congressman who lost a Senate race to Claire McCaskill after making widely derided comments about “legitimate rape.” Coulter predicted that if Sanford does win the runoff on Tuesday, “he will lose the general election,” and if he did win, he would “[make] Republicans look like utter hypocrites on family values.”
Poll numbers released by Public Policy Polling on Tuesday appear to support out Coulter’s predictions.
In a general election match up with Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the Democratic nominee, Bostic performs narrowly better than Sanford, tying Colbert Busch with 43 percent each, while Sanford trails her 45 percent to 47 percent.
But in a run-off, Sanford has the clear edge. He leads Bostic 53 percent to 40 percent among Republican South Carolina voters. Moreover, he remains popular, with 55 percent of Republicans saying they hold a favorable opinion of him, compared to 43 percent for Bostic. Sanford also has the advantage of being almost universally known in the state. Just 6 percent of Republicans are “not sure” of their opinion of him, while 23 percent are unable to state a view on Bostic.
National level endorsements may not be particularly helpful in boosting Bostic’s numbers, said one South Carolina Republican operative. The heavyweight endorsements in this race, the operative said, would be former Sen. Jim DeMint and now-Sen. Tim Scott — the man whose congressional seat Sanford and Bostic are vying.
Endorsements from people like Santorum and Coulter, on the other hand, could actually do damage, the operative suggested, undermining Bostic’s portrayal of himself as a fresh face from outside the establishment.
Luke Byars, a South Carolina political consultant, spoke as though a Sanford win in Tuesday’s run-off was all but preordained.
“The fat lady is warming up,” he said.