Mark Sanford is in trouble again. Allegedly violating his divorce agreement with his ex-wife Jenny Sanford, the former South Carolina Republican governor now faces a trespassing hearing two days after the May 7 special election. In response to the latest controversy, the National Republican Congressional Committee released a statement saying they will not fund the special election. This all but assures Democratic nominee Elizabeth Colbert Busch will now win what should be a safe Republican seat.
Though it appeared Republican voters were willing to give Sanford the second chance he requested, it is highly unlikely that they will award him a third such opportunity. Thus, the string of bad Republican luck and performances they have experienced in special elections during the past few years looks to be continuing.
If Busch Wins
Let’s turn the clock ahead to the regular election next year, when Republicans should be well positioned to reclaim the seat from a Congresswoman Busch. With many potential candidates such as former Charleston County Councilman Curtis Bostic, state Sen. Larry Grooms, state Rep. Chip Limehouse, and businessman Teddy Turner, among others waiting in the wings, it appears the GOP will field a strong opponent to Busch in the regular election.
But, alternative arguments do exist that the projected new incumbent’s defeat may not be such a slam dunk. While it is likely that Busch’s, or any Democrat’s, congressional tenure from this district would be limited, for several reasons it is not a given that she would lose in 2014.
First, she will be an incumbent and allowed to vote conservatively enough to avoid being characterized as being too liberal for her constituency.
Second, though she will be a member of the Democratic conference, Busch won’t have to cast a vote for Nancy Pelosi as Minority Leader, since the position has already been voted upon for the current Congress’ duration. It was the Pelosi association that doomed so many Democratic Representatives in the 2010 mid-term election.
Third, due to a nasty situation involving a computer hacker stealing personal information from every South Carolina taxpayer and the incident’s negative political impact upon GOP Gov. Nikki Haley, Democrat Vincent Shaheen will likely be a stronger gubernatorial nominee than has been the case in the recent past. This should help make the turnout model better for Democrats than in typical mid-term elections, thus helping Busch.
Fourth, though all of the aforementioned Republican potential opponents appear strong on paper, it is important to remember that all of them just lost to the disgraced Sanford, so their candidate capabilities may be over-rated.
Mark Sanford has again created a debacle for the Republican Party. With virtually no legal way of removing him from the ballot, and the national party refusing to commit funds to help elect him, the GOP fate for the May 7 special election is virtually sealed. The more things change, the more they stay the same.