A recent poll indicates that former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, the Republican candidate for now-Sen. Tim Scott’s vacated 1st congressional district seat in South Carolina , has fallen behind the Democratic candidate, Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, by nine points in just a few short weeks.
According to the results of a Public Policy Polling survey released Monday , Colbert-Busch, who happens to be the older sister of Comedy Central satirist Stephen Colbert, would win the election if it were held now, topping Sanford by a 50 percent to 41 percent margin. The poll shows both an increase in support for Colbert-Busch and decrease in support for Sanford since the last PPP survey was released near the end of March. In that survey, taken just before the run-off election between Republican contenders that Sanford subsequently won, Colbert-Busch only enjoyed a 47 percent to 45 percent lead, the results within the 2.9 percent margin of error.
But that was before the former governor was accused of trespassing at his former wife’s home and the Republican National Committee pulled its funding for his election.
The Associated Press reported on April 16 that court documents had been obtained ordering Sanford to appear in court to answer to a trespassing charge. Sanford’s ex-wife, Jenny, had filed the complaint through her lawyer on Feb. 4, the day after she caught him at her back door using his cell phone for a flash light. Although Sanford did not immediately issue a statement once the documents were confirmed as authentic, he did go on WTMA radio in Charleston on April 19 to explain his version of events.
Sanford said he was simply watching the Super Bowl with his 16-year-old son. They had originally started watching the game at another house not far away, but Sanford said his son wanted to leave, so he took him home and watched the remainder of the game there. He said he did so because that was what his son wanted. His wife caught him as he was leaving and confronted him, because their divorce settlement maintains neither shall enter the home of the other without permission. Sanford admitted that first media reports about the incident sounded a bit “creepy.”
But within a day of the trespassing complaint going public, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) announced it would spend no money to help Sanford win what would normally have been a given Republican seat. Although it was not publicly stated, Sanford’s public image preceding his run for the congressional seat coupled with the more recent trespassing allegations may have weighed heavily in the decision. While governor of South Carolina, Sanford was caught up in a tabloid-headlining scandal when it was discovered he had taken a trip to meet a mistress while supposedly hiking the Appalachian Trail in the western part of the state. His wife filed for divorce soon thereafter.
As Politico reported, the NRCC decision to not spend money in the campaign, severely limiting Sanford’s political ad outreach, might have been a death blow to the former governor’s campaign.
“Mark Sanford has proven he knows what it takes to win elections. At this time, the NRCC will not be engaged in this special election,” NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said, according to Politico .
But knowing how to win might not be enough to actuate a victory. According to the PPP poll, although Sanford lost no ground with Republican supporters, his overall favorability in the district is at 38 percent while his unfavorability rating is at 56 percent. That is the number of Colbert-Busch’s favorability rating, whereas her unfavorability rests at 31 percent.
A majority, 51 percent, said that the recent trespassing revelations also engendered doubt as to his fitness to hold public office.
PPP also noted that a strong backlash to the recent vote against gun control legislation by many Republicans might also play a significant role in the upcoming special election. With 86 percent of voters in the district favoring universal background checks (only 12 percent opposed) and 45 percent saying that the Republican opposition to those checks would make it less likely they would support the GOP in the next election, Sanford might catch the upsurge of what might be a coming wave in 2014.
The special election is scheduled to take place May 7.