A new poll shows former governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina trailing his Democratic opponent in the fourth congressional district’s general election, in the event he wins next week’s GOP runoff for the vacant seat. The survey, by Public Policy Polling, shows Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert, leading Sanford 47 percent to 45 percent.
Of course, first Sanford must make it through a primary runoff that will indicate whether GOP voters have forgiven him for his 2009 adultery scandal.
In the initial primary for the congressional seat vacated by now-senator Tim Scott, Sanford placed first, with 37 percent, but failed to win the needed majority. He is facing off against former Charleston County council member Curtis Bostic. Bostic has a strong base in the Evangelical community and will campaign today with former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum. But he hasn’t aired TV ads for nearly a week, and was outraised 15 to 1 by Sanford in the pre-primary FEC filing reports.
“Sanford has done a very good job reintroducing himself to primary voters,” says Andrew Boucher, a political consultant based in Charleston. “His ad featuring him talking to the audience about his fiscal-conservative record was appealing.” With time running out before the runoff, he is now viewed as the favorite.
But whoever wins the runoff will have to beat Colbert Busch. She has raked in gobs of liberal money raised by her brother’s prominence, while projecting a moderate image on the campaign trail. “Her ads never mention she’s a Democrat and tout her work with the Port of Charleston creating jobs,” says Boucher. ”She has the chance to cut into independent women voters leery of Sanford’s behavior, and also business-oriented voters. She would also have a real chance against Bostic.”
A race between either Republican and Colbert-Busch would likely be very close, and a Democratic victory in a district where Mitt Romney won 58 percent of the vote could have a devastating impact on Republican morale nationally.
Yet so far, the national party appears asleep to the dangers of the South Carolina special election.