Seemingly against all odds, former governor Mark Sanford (R-SC) successfully re-claimed his former congressional seat with a stunning 54-45 percent victory over Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch last night in southeastern South Carolina. The race drew major national attention because of Sanford’s highly publicized extra-marital affair and alleged violation of his divorce agreement, along with the Democratic nominee’s status of being the sister of Comedy Central television personality Stephen Colbert. Colbert Busch’s inability to dodge the liberal label, however, proved to be her undoing in this conservative Charleston-anchored 1st Congressional District.
It’s rare when a nominee winning a seat that overwhelmingly favors his party is considered an upset, but that’s exactly what happened last night. Sanford, running as a Tea Party endorsed fiscal hard-liner, successfully made his budget discipline message the focal point of the campaign and not his continuing personal scandals.
The Democrats poured a steady stream of money into the race, sensing that they could steal a solidly Republican seat and use the victory as a building block to support their 2014 House majority plan. Last night’s defeat is clearly a setback for them. When the final accounting is completed, the tally will likely show that Colbert Busch and the outside organizations supporting her or opposing Sanford spent between $1.7 and $2 million. Sanford, accompanied by very little outside spending, will come closer to, but will likely fall under, $1 million in total expenditures.
Earlier we projected that the former governor and congressman needed a high turnout to win because Colbert Busch would likely benefit from a lower voter participation rate. The former occurred. The final unofficial tally shows a total of 143,774 votes cast, from which Sanford garnered 54.0 percent. The total represents 31.6 percent of the 455,702 SC-1 registered voters.
Special elections commonly record total turnout numbers in the 100-120,000 range. Continue reading >
Via Twitter, as seems to be today’s norm for declining to run for political office, Rep. Steve King (R-IA-4) announced yesterday that he will not seek Iowa’s open Senate seat next year.
“I will not run for Senate in 2014. A Senate race takes me out of urgent battles in Congress that can’t wait until 2015,” King tweeted. “Many thanks to all.” Obviously, the message is an indication that he will continue his congressional service in the House, and is at least a tacit indication that he will seek re-election.
The move is likely a politically intelligent one for the congressman, even though he was virtually assured of the Republican nomination. Polling was explicit that the conservative King was the top choice of Iowa GOP primary voters. But, it was also obvious that he was fighting major head winds in the general election, and not just from Democrats.
Prior to Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D) announcement earlier in the year that he would not seek re-election in 2014, former George W. Bush political chief Karl Rove announced the formation of his Conservative Victory Project, which is designed to unite the Republicans around a winnable general election candidate. It was made painfully clear upon Sen. Harkin’s announcement that Rove does not believe King can win statewide, leading to him making public overtures for Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA-3) to run. Continue reading >
Public Policy Polling released the results of their final special election survey (May 4-5; 1,239 likely SC-1 voters) of the SC-1 race and they confirm that former governor Mark Sanford (R) now has the upward momentum heading into tomorrow’s vote. According to the data, Sanford has taken a 47-46 percent lead over Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch (D). Green Party candidate Eugene Platt posted 4 percent.
In the last PPP poll taken in mid-April, Busch had a 51-40 percent lead. Sanford’s favorability rating is still an upside down 43:54 percent, but that has improved from 38:56 percent. Busch’s rating dropped to 50:44 percent from 56:31 percent favorable to unfavorable. The key reason for her recession is being painted as a liberal. According to the data, by a margin of 47-4 percent, the respondents rated her as being too liberal. Forty-three percent said she is just “about right” ideologically.
Tomorrow’s race is back to a dead heat with Sanford now having the clear momentum. A Sanford victory tomorrow would be stunning, considering how far behind he had fallen just two weeks ago while enduring the National Republican Congressional Committee pulling out of his race.
Tomorrow is Election Day in the SC-1 special and there are signals that former governor Mark Sanford (R) is rapidly closing against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch. Public Policy Polling is scheduled to release a final survey of the race later today. There was a local poll floating around last week that actually showed the race tied, but the data did not appear reliable so the results should be discarded.
But there is a sense that the trends are moving in Sanford’s direction. During the last week, senators Lindsey Graham (R) and Tim Scott (R) both endorsed the former governor and congressman, as did Gov. Nikki Haley (R). Normally, it is not particularly noteworthy when the party elected officials endorse a party nominee but, in this case with Sanford’s well-publicized problems and the National Republican Congressional Committee publicly disowning the race, the actions do show some positive momentum for the damaged candidate.
As always is the case with special elections, the turnout model will be key. A lower voter participation figure will likely favor the Democrat because the district is heavily Republican. Busch must still be considered the favorite, but the result may be closer than was predicted just a week ago. Continue reading >
At the end of the 2012 election cycle, then-Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) said his Montana political career was at an end. Losing to Sen. Jon Tester (D) by three points, 45-48 percent, even though Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was racking up a 55-42 percent Montana margin over President Obama, the six-term congressman and former lieutenant governor said he would not again seek political office.
Now, with Sen. Max Baucus (D) announcing that he will not run in 2014, Rehberg may be changing his tune. “As to what the future holds, ever since Max (Sen. Baucus) announced his retirement two days ago my phone has been ringing off the hook,” Rehberg said. “The encouragement I’ve been getting from Montanans to take a serious look at this race has been overwhelming. I owe it to them, and to all the folks who I’ve served over the years, to keep listening and see how things develop. I’m not ruling anything out at this point.”
The top potential candidate is former Democratic governor Brian Schweitzer. If he decides to run, with his high favorability ratings that have continued into his retirement, it will be very difficult for Republicans to beat him. Conversely, should Schweitzer not enter the race and Rehberg run for the Republicans, he would likely become the decided favorite and the GOP would be in strong conversion position.
The Baucus retirement has clearly changed the outlook for the Montana Senate race. Until the candidates identify themselves, however, this race will remain in a state of flux.
Schock, Pingree Say No
Two US House members who have been mentioned as potential gubernatorial candidates in their respective states each publicly removed themselves from further talk about a 2014 statewide campaign. Republican Aaron Schock (R-IL-18) and Democrat Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) both confirmed that they will seek re-election to Continue reading >