Political Animal


May 06, 2013 11:00 AM How Both Sides Might Spin a Sanford Win

By Ed Kilgore

A new PPP survey appears to confirm the buzz from SC-1: after being down nine points to Elizabeth Colbert Busch two weeks ago, Mark Sanford has pulled even or perhaps ahead on the eve of the special election. Here’s PPP’s simple analysis:

Sanford has gotten back into the race by nationalizing it and painting Colbert Busch as a liberal. A plurality of voters in the district- 47%- say they think Colbert Busch is a liberal compared to 43% who characterize her as ideologically ‘about right.’ Colbert Busch’s favorability rating has dropped a net 19 points compared to 2 weeks ago, from +25 then at 56/31 to +6 now at 50/44.
While Colbert Busch is seen as too liberal, 48% of voters think that Sanford’s views are ‘about right’ on the issues compared to just 38% who see him as too conservative. Sanford’s also seen some repair to his image over the course of the campaign. Although he’s still unpopular, sporting a -11 net favorability rating at 43/54, that’s up a net 13 points from our first poll in March when he was at 34/58.

If Sanford does win, you can bet conservatives will spin his victory as demonstrating the wonder-working power of ideology: even Mark Sanford, a man who has worked very hard to maintain his image as the epitome of the narcissistic politician, is able to beat a strong and well-funded opponent by pointing a trembling finger at her and shouting: Liberal! Liberal! Liberal!

WaPo’s Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan offer Democrats a counter-argument for why they are the ultimate winners if their candidate in SC-1 loses:

[I]t’s not just in South Carolina where people know about Sanford and his transgressions over the past four years. His initial defense of his 2009 absence — Sanford told staff he was “hiking the Appalachian Trail” (thereby ruining any actual hiking trips for married men everywhere) — became a national story and made the then-governor a punchline for late-night comedians.
A Sanford victory puts that guy in the House Republican Conference. That means that not only do the late-night jokes start again but, more importantly, every GOPer in the House and Senate will be asked whether they support Sanford and what they think of serving with him.

Maybe. On the one hand, GOPers would have an easy answer to questions about Sanford: the voters of his district sent him back to Washington, warts and all. But that won’t keep Democrats from using Sanford’s example in parts of the country where his ideology isn’t much more popular than his marital record; after all, Sanford himself seems to have benefitted from campaigning endlessly against Nancy Pelosi. Maybe in California or Maine or Michigan some Democrat challenging a Republican House incumbent who is refusing to debate will set up a cardboard outline of Mark Sanford and tear him a new one.

First let’s see what happens tomorrow night. The one almost certain winner will be Sanford’s fiancee, Maria Belen Chapur. If he wins despite her surprise appearance at Sanford’s Republican runoff victory party last month, which appears to have enraged Jenny Sanford into a thinly disguised campaign to kill him politically once and for all, Chapur can certainly go totally public once the votes are counted. And if he loses, the spotlight will go away, probably for good.

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.


  • c u n d gulag on May 06, 2013 11:35 AM:

    He'll win, I'm pretty sure of that.

    After all, we ARE talking about the state that's too large to be an asylum.

    And, I mean, what's the problem?
    Jesus forgave him, so why shouldn't the voters?

    The only chance I see of him NOT winning, is if the wives of Conservatives, behind their husbands backs, decide to vote against him, when they vote.

  • gandalf on May 06, 2013 11:42 AM:

    There's only one way to spin this. There's a whole lot of dumb shits in SC. And if Stanford wins it only means there are more dumb shits than sane people in SC. I have a firm policy. Never set foot in SC.

  • agentS on May 06, 2013 11:49 AM:

    I think it says more about the ethics and intelligence levels of the voters than it does about the influx of money in the race.
    The primary voters chose him OVER 5 other candidates who didn't run off to Argentina to see a mistress. Either voters are lazy (choose the guy with the name recognition) or anti-women (hey, I wanna be like that guy!). Either way, if anyone votes for this clown, the district should be ashamed of itself.
    But, it is South Carolina, what can you honestly expect?

  • Anonymous on May 06, 2013 11:53 AM:

    So in light of these new polls is Jenny Sanford going to be a bit more blatant in her criticism of her scumbag ex before tomorrow?

  • William Burns on May 06, 2013 12:52 PM:

    I don't think the Sanford voters are dumb--they're conservative Republicans who want a conservative Republican in Congress even if they're disgusted by his personal life. Its not really a lot different from the way a lot of Dems felt about Bill Clinton.

  • low-tech cyclist on May 06, 2013 1:11 PM:

    If conservatives make the point that "even Mark Sanford, a man who has worked very hard to maintain his image as the epitome of the narcissistic politician, is able to beat a strong and well-funded opponent by pointing a trembling finger at her and shouting: Liberal! Liberal! Liberal!" my rebuttal is, "sure, in a R+11 district. BFD."

    Honestly, I wouldn't attach too much importance to this one. If Colbert Busch wins, it's not by means that are replicable elsewhere, and she'll be lucky to hold onto her seat in 2014.

  • Citizen Alan on May 06, 2013 2:37 PM:

    If Sanford wins, I wonder if he'll move back into the C Street Mansion run by The Family, aka that frat boy sex cult that the late Chuck Colson used to run. The one that tells Republican assholes that the mere fact that they are financially successful is proof that God loves them and forgives them so it's okay if they all cheat on their wives.

  • Chuck on Piggott on May 06, 2013 3:16 PM:

    C U N D Gulag has it right.
    If he asked Jesus to forgive him, and you know Jesus can't turn down a really repentant sinner, than who are we to question that. If he's OK with Jesus than the fundies will vote him. Love me some redemption.