Political Animal

Blog

May 08, 2013 9:16 AM Low Country Boils Over

By Ed Kilgore

So Mark Sanford is returning to Congress after a very convincing (54/45) win over Elizabeth Colbert Busch in the special election to fill a vacancy in the first district of South Carolina. Turnout (32%) was actually a bit higher than most observers expected. For all the fireworks and the April polling showing Busch with a solid lead, the district’s Republican character (Romney carried it by 18 points in a presidential year, when Democratic turnout is at its peak) prevailed.

In terms of the campaign itself, Sanford did exactly what most of us thought he would do from the git-go: seek maximum partisan and ideological polarization of the race so that Republicans unhappy with him would eventually find a duty to vote against the Democrat. There was a moment when the revelation of a trespassing complaint against Sanford by his famous and popular ex-wife, Jenny, which in turn helped produce a withdrawal of his support from the national GOP campaign committee, looked to cook Mark’s goose. But the moment passed, and as WaPo’s Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan observed today, late endorsements of Sanford by Tim Scott, Lindsey Graham and Nikki Haley, along with such national right-wing validators as Rand Paul and FreedomWorks, were enough to make the hold-your-nose-and-vote-against-the-godless-liberal message effective. It may have been a stupid stunt, but when Sanford “debated” a cardboard cutout of Nancy Pelosi, it did reinforce the only real message he had—or needed.

For Democrats, the results are obviously discouraging, but the results just showed that party and ideology can trump a scandal in a district like this, and that non-presidential contests continue to produce pro-Republican turnout patterns. The seat would have been very difficult to hold in November in any event.

I will say that Busch’s defeat shows once again that the old southern white Democratic formula of moving as far to the right as possible and hoping to win a personality contest just doesn’t much work anymore, which is why the ranks of the Blue Dog southern white Democrats in the House from the Deep South have dwindled to near nothingness (there’s still John Barrow of Georgia, who announced yesterday he would not run for the Senate in 2014, but that’s about it). At a minimum, any southern Democratic revival is going to depend on candidates who can get reliable Democratic voters enthused enough to turn out when the presidency is not at stake.

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.

Comments

  • Gandalf on May 08, 2013 9:28 AM:

    I think it just shows that there's more idiots per square mile in South Carolina than anywhere else in the country. I've turned down several vacation trips to SC because I prefer to not vacation in third world countries.

  • c u n d gulag on May 08, 2013 9:36 AM:

    No surprise to me!

    The only think I thought might cost him, is that when he went out houndoggin' it, he didn't do it with an American woman, but an Argentinian hottie.

    But, this IS, after all, SC - the state that's too large to be an asylum.

    Sanford could have been buried the day before, and won that election.

    PS: Don't try cheatin' and whorin', Democrats!
    The rules ain't the same for all y'all.

  • boatboy_srq on May 08, 2013 9:41 AM:

    IOW, a philandering, responsibility-shirking, lawbreaking good'ol'boy is just dandy with the GOTea as long as he's waging war against the IslamoFascoSocialist Others and keeping Ahmurrca safe for gun-toting straight white Xtian people.

    Exactly what kind of scoundrel does it take for the GOTea to decide that the rule of law and/or marital fidelity are important considerations when selecting a legislator?

  • boatboy_srq on May 08, 2013 9:46 AM:

    IOW, a philandering, responsibility-shirking, lawbreaking good'ol'boy is just dandy with the GOTea as long as he's waging war against the IslamoFascoSocialist Others and keeping Ahmurrca safe for gun-toting straight white Xtian people.

    Exactly what kind of scoundrel does it take for the GOTea to decide that the rule of law and/or marital fidelity are important considerations when selecting a legislator?

  • Bobby Ray from SC on May 08, 2013 9:46 AM:

    I'd much rathern' my herd erned tax dollars goes to cheatin' trips than toos my owns helth care. Sumbody got to stop Obama.

  • boatboy_srq on May 08, 2013 9:48 AM:

    Please excuse the double-post. Craptcha insisted I had the code wrong, then insisted I'd posted too many times.

    Better real-person-validation tools, please.

  • Kathryn on May 08, 2013 10:18 AM:

    But Gulag, the South American is a HOTTIE, so that makes it more than okay for country club, gated community living S.C. men, why that is a tribal family value, I suspect. After all, Sanford has publicly sought god's forgiveness, what more is needed.

    The only chance Colbert-Busch had would have been for the trespassing charge to have surfaced two days before the election, memories are short in Dixie (not just the South actually).

  • jjm on May 08, 2013 10:18 AM:

    She did not have much to offer, in the long run. I couldn't see why people would vote FOR her, rather than just against Sanford.

  • Daryl Peter Cobranchi on May 08, 2013 10:27 AM:

    the ranks of the Blue Dog southern white Democrats in the House from the Deep South have dwindled to near nothingness (thereís still John Barrow of Georgia, who announced yesterday he would not run for the Senate in 2014, but thatís about it).

    Mike McIntyre, NC-07, is as blue as they come.

  • catclub on May 08, 2013 10:32 AM:

    November, 2014. Or does November automatically mean an election year November?

  • John on May 08, 2013 10:42 AM:

    Barrow looks to be the only remaining House Democrat from the Deep South not representing a majority-minority district. All the other Democratic representatives from Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina are Black.

    You only get a few more if you move outside the Deep South - Jim Cooper in Tennessee (I won't count Steve Cohen, who is white but represents a majority Black district), David Price and Mike McIntyre in North Carolina, Lloyd Doggett and Gene Green in Texas, if you count Texas as Southern. There's Jim Moran and Jerry Connolly in Virginia, but they represent the non-Southern part of Virginia. Same thing with all the White Democrats in Florida.

    But, really, it's pretty drastic. And dismal even compared to four years ago.

    At the beginning of the 111th Congress, the Old Confederacy had 59 Democrats and 72 Republicans. This Congress, there's 40 Democrats and 98 Republicans. And if you exclude majority minority districts and the non-southern parts of Florida, Virginia, and Texas, it's gone from around 23 Democrats to what looks to be 5 (Barrow, Cooper, Price, McIntyre, Green). That's looking extinction in the face right there.

  • jim filyaw on May 08, 2013 10:59 AM:

    sanford is all the comments accuse him of being, and possibly worse. however, his election is best explained (and understood) in terms of adam clayton powell, ted kennedy, and richard daley. seminal hypocrisy and stupidity at the ballot box is not an exclusively southern trait.

  • Peter C on May 08, 2013 11:05 AM:

    I'm greatful that Colber-Busch ran. She gave South Carolina an alternative. Some day, South Carolina will wake up and want one.

  • Renai on May 08, 2013 11:52 AM:

    "...get reliable Democratic voters enthused enough"?

    Who, in paying even the most accidental or peripheral attention to the lunacy going on in Congress and in multiple state governments like SC isn't "enthused" enough to vote for sanity at every opportunity?

    Does the Republican Party need more collaborators-by-default in the blatant destruction they're weighing on nation, state, community, standard of living, and personal liberties?

  • rrk1 on May 08, 2013 1:32 PM:

    Philandering Democrats are crucified, whoring Rethugs are forgiven. Those are the rules.

  • James Conner on May 08, 2013 1:40 PM:

    Party, party, uber alles.

  • howie on May 08, 2013 3:10 PM:

    As long as districts can be drawn by partisans instead of bi-partisan, this will be what it is. There just aren't any ticket splitters anymore, Rs only vote for Rs. D's are only slightly less loyal.

    Put about 48% Rs in a district and the Rs will win just about every time based on superior turnout and loyalty.


  • boatboy_srq on May 08, 2013 3:29 PM:

    @Peter C: be careful what you wish for. The last time SC found an "alternative" that they could select was 1861 - and most of us weren't especially happy with that choice, either.

  • Alex W on May 10, 2013 8:22 AM:

    Retake is not the right word. The Democratic Party is the side that changed not really the constituents of the bible belt. There is no way to foist progressive ideas linked to the urban majority on country and rural sensibilities in any quick fashion, if ever.

  • MAJ on May 10, 2013 11:06 AM:

    If you want another take on the election, see the really good Bradblog article that discusses how all the voting machines in SC are unverifiable: www.bradblog.com/p=9999.