Political Animal


April 03, 2013 8:41 AM Appalachian Trail to Comeback Trail?

By Ed Kilgore

So one of the most thoroughly disgraced and humiliated pols of our era (at least among those who have not worn the orange jumpsuit), Mark Sanford, has won the Republican nomination to return to his old gig representing South Carolina’s 1st district in Congress.

He beat former Charleston city councilman Curtis Bostic by a comfortable 57-43 margin in a very low-turnout special runoff election. The results pretty closely resembled the 53-40 margin shown for Sanford in last week’s Public Policy Polling survey of the district, but still seemed to surprise a lot of observers expecting a Bostic win.

If indeed PPP has a good handle on the district and the shape of the special electorate, Sanford still has an uphill climb to the May 7 general election in which he will face Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch. PPP showed Busch leading Sanford 47-45 thanks to the latter’s horrible 34/58 approval/disapproval ratio and some effective early advertising by the former.

Given the solidly Republican nature of the 1st district (it has a Cook Political Report PVI of R+11, which means it’s eleven points more Republican than the country as a whole), and the typical GOP advantage everywhere in special elections (sort of a super-midterm, where the old and the white show up when no one else does), Sanford’s task now is pretty obvious: run a “Republican unity” campaign that seeks maximum partisan and ideological polarization against Busch. That means getting every popular Republican in sight—local favorites like Sen. Tim Scott, Sanford’s former protege Gov. Nikki Haley, and maybe former Sen. Jim DeMint—to thump the tubs for him, along with national Republican stars, particularly those 2016 possibles who’d love to get some early exposure in a crucial primary state.

But nothing would help Sanford more than to get his ex-wife, Jenny, out there with at least one strong statement suggesting the need to unite to destroy the godless baby-killing looters of the Democratic Party trumps her hurt feelings over Mark’s perfidy. It’s often forgotten that Mark and Jenny once led the most hard-core right-wing faction of the SC GOP; they are “movement conservatives,” so it shouldn’t be that much of a stretch for Jenny to place the “movement” first.

If that’s the correct scenario for Sanford, however, you have to wonder what he was thinking by showing off his fiancee, the famous Argentinian “soul mate” Maria Belen Chapur, at his victory celebration last night. He had kept her out of the state (and presumably the country) up until now. Why suddenly remind everyone of the fiasco that drove him from office and made the Palmetto State a figure of great fun for weeks and months? Why rub his politically crucial ex-wife’s nose in his spurning and humiliation of her—his smarter, richer partner in politics and in life—to pursue a younger woman?

I dunno if Sanford is just very confident, or already knows what Jenny will or won’t do for him. But there were probably cheers in Busch’s camp when Chapur showed up last night by Sanford’s side.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • JR on April 03, 2013 9:20 AM:

    Can't help that, according to Tiger Beat on the Potomac, Sanford's support among women is sorely lacking...

  • Anonymous on April 03, 2013 9:32 AM:

    Republicans on:

    gay marriage - "Goodness gracious, no. That's icky. Plus we're god ferrin' folk."

    adultery, abandoning the mother of your 4 children for a younger foreigner, and dereliction of elected duty - "Fine by us. Democrats are icky."

  • c u n d gulag on April 03, 2013 9:57 AM:

    "Jesus forgave me. I know, 'cause he told me so.
    So can you.
    Unless, of course, you're some HeathenousSocialistFascistCommunistMuslimDemocRAT!"

    I'll say this much for Catholicism - at least he would have had to say a fairly large number of "Our Fathers" and Hail Mary's" before he would be taken back. And his fingers would be at least as familiar with his rosary beads, as his lovers... Never mind.

    All you need to do with the Evangelical Christian suckers, is tell them that you and Jesus prayed over your sins, and that Jesus forgave you.

    Too bad Jesus isn't as forgiving of people who weren't either rich or powerful white older males.

  • mk3872 on April 03, 2013 10:15 AM:

    How does infidelity, lying about an affair and divorcing your wife square with "movement conservative" and why would anyone still trust or believe him anymore?

  • Peter C on April 03, 2013 10:15 AM:

    I think the most important qualification that Republicans respect is membership in the Republican tribe. They don't run for office to benefit the public; they run for office to benefit the tribe. So, competence and integrity are not key qualities when incompetence and corruption benefit the tribe.

    Mark Sanford's main drawback was that he was an embarrassment, not that he was corrupt or immoral. Perhpas Colbert-Busch can effectively ridicule him.

  • T2 on April 03, 2013 10:34 AM:

    basically, it tells us a lot about the kind of people that live in SC. Not the kind of place I'd move to.

  • D.M. on April 03, 2013 10:36 AM:

    pretty broad brush being used to paint Republicans.

    I voted twice in this special election. My first choice didn't make it past the first round and my second choice didn't beat Sanford. I have given up on voting for life long politicians that want power more than anything so I won't be voting for Sanford in the Generals. I actually believe in marriage and not stepping out on your spouse.

    oh, and I am a Republican that doesn't care what sex you or your spouse is so you don't need to go down that road either.

  • c u n d gulag on April 03, 2013 11:02 AM:

    Good for you!
    People like me appreciate old-school Republicans like you - you're the kind I grew up arguing with, but still respecting their opinion, and the points they made.
    I just didn't agree with them. But they earned my respect, and were respectful in return.

    So, I never meant to paint people like you with too broad of a brush - it's just that it's been awhile since I've encountered someone like you. Or, more than one at a time, on some blog.

    Now, if only people like you could only wrestle back control of your party, which is getting more Manichean, extreme, and insane, by the day.
    Please give me some hope, by saying that's still possible.

  • biggerbox on April 03, 2013 11:20 AM:

    Man, South Carolina politics has really gotten a lot tamer in just a few years. I'm surprised there hasn't been a rumor about Maria being pregnant with an "anchor baby" by now. (I guess Karl Rove has moved on to other things.)

    You have to wonder about the details of the deal he's obviously struck with Jenny are.

  • smartalek on April 03, 2013 11:27 AM:

    @ D.M.:
    No disrespect to you intended (really, no snark), but it's the current Publican Party that have painted themselves with that brush.
    Just ask Sen. Bill Bennett, Sen. Richard Lugar, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Rep. Mike Castle, Rep. Bass, and a host of others...
    For that matter, if you're not dead-set against full equality for GLBTQ Americans, your Party might not consider you one of them anymore, even if you do (though I'm sure they'll still take your donations and votes). Have you checked with them lately?

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on April 03, 2013 11:30 AM:

    Maybe Sanford could give two shits less what Jenny or anyone else thinks at this point.

    Whatever comes of his bid in the general against Busch, it's money in the bank from here on out. If anything, this is just a primer for an upcoming book tour or FauxNews extended audition. I'd be hella surprised if this dude doesn't have some right-wing-jesus-loving publishing house beating down his door for an expose on being born again.

  • @TeaPartyCat on April 03, 2013 12:13 PM:

    He showed off his fiance as explanation. He's saying, "Look at her? Wouldn't anyone ruin their marriage and career for this?"

  • David Carlton on April 03, 2013 12:31 PM:

    "He had kept her out of the state (and presumably the country) up until now." Actually, Ed, it's been reported that he's been campaigning with her in Charleston. One has to remember that the Holy City is considerably more relaxed than the puritanical Upstate; it's a port city with a sizeable Irish-American [think Mayor Joe Riley], German-American [think Fritz Hollings], and even Italian-American population, more Catholic than the rest of the state [The Colberts are RC], and the blue-bloods are tippling Episcopalians who swear like sailors [I've known a few]. The First District is also home to plenty of affluent retirees from other parts of the country, making its Republicanism far less "southern" and Religious-Right than the sort you'd find in Spartanburg.

  • D.M. on April 03, 2013 1:09 PM:

    @c u n d gulag - It is not possible. Don't hold your breath. Need I say more: Jeb Bush???

    @martalek - You are correct and I was in error. I shouldn't really say I am a Republican. It is not uncommon for me to leave most of the ballot vacant except for a few ppl I feel still have honesty and integrity. I am talking Paul Wellstone kind of integrity. Stand up for your own believes - not poll driven believes. I am a long ways from the current Republican party, but even further from the current Democratic party.

    @Peter C - The main drawback for Sanford is that he is not to be trusted. He was for term limits the last time he had a go at this. Why is he running again?