Democrats want Mark Sanford to take a hike in South Carolina’s 1st District special election. And Republicans have decided not to come to the former governor’s aid with less than three weeks to go until Election Day.
According to a party official, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will begin airing a TV ad against Sanford tomorrow in the conservative Charleston-based district. The buy, costing the committee’s independent expenditure arm about $205,000, will air through April 28.
The DCCC’s first spot focuses on the then-governor’s infamous 2009 disappearance from the state, where he was said to have been hiking the Appalachian Trail but ended up confessing in a teary press conference to an affair with an Argentinian woman. He and his wife, Jenny, divorced, and Sanford is now engaged to the woman, Maria Belen Chapur. The ad highlights that disappearance and subsequent ethics charges and fines.
“Mark Sanford walked out on us–violated our trust,” says the ad. “Now he wants our trust again? Maybe Mark Sanford should just keep walking.”
The Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC also went up Wednesday with a spot hitting Sanford on ethics charges stemming from his disappearance. Sanford, with funds from the state GOP, began attacking his Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, on television Wednesday as well.
The DCCC’s GOP counterpart, the National Republican Congressional Committee, announced on Wednesday they weren’t investing further resources in helping Sanford after an Associated Press report surfaced that his ex-wife had filed a complaint he was trespassing at her home in early February. Mark Sanford said he was simply there to watch the Super Bowl with his son.
While Republicans privately aren’t pleased with the turn of events and were never thrilled about the prospect of a Sanford candidacy, their moves this week to distance themselves from the damaged former governor and congressman could be seen as strategic. They won’t be seen as responsible for the loss if Sanford doesn’t win; and can somewhat distance themselves from another awkward scenario. If he does somehow win, that’s fine, too: the GOP has not formally repudiated him.
And possibly better for Republicans – if Sanford doesn’t win, they may be rid of him forever.
“If he manages to lose this Republican seat, his South Carolina political life will be over, he will become a private citizen whose personal actions caused a nasty divorce,” former state GOP chairman Katon Dawson told msnbc.
Democrats are well-placed to take advantage of the Sanford mess. They have a strong candidate in Elizabeth Colbert Busch, one who would get national coverage in any case thanks to her famous brother, comedian Stephen Colbert. They are cautiously optimistic about winning the seat.
However, even while the DCCC and its allies are going in big for Colbert Busch, their optimism should still be somewhat measured. A recent string of upset special election victors – Kathy Hochul (D-N.Y.), Bob Turner (R-N.Y.), Don Cazayoux (D-La.) and Travis Childers (D-Miss.) – aren’t in Congress anymore either.
“This is an overwhelmingly Republican district that has become competitive because Republicans yet again nominated a flawed candidate,” said DCCC spokesman Jesse Ferguson. “The DCCC will aggressively compete in uphill fights even in the most Republican territory.”