In the final test tonight, the voters of South Carolina’s first Congressional district will decide whether or not to indeed award former and formerly disgraced Republican governor Mark Sanford with another shot at political office, or to act completely out of character and elect Democratic candidate Elizabeth Colbert Busch to now-Sen. Tim Scott’s former seat. Sanford’s campaign has been almost a comeback-within-a-comeback; the bottom momentarily fell out after revelations surfaced that he violated his divorce settlement by trespassing at his wife’s home earlier this year and national Republicans subsequently decided to leave him to his own devices. He’s since gotten somewhat back on track, however, and although the race is still in tossup territory, it sounds like the wind just might be at his back.
The kicker, I suppose, will really be if enough of the deeply red district’s Republican voters stay home or turn out to cast their ballots for Sanford — whether or not it’s a vote in actual support of Sanford, or simply a vote against a Democrat taking the seat. Says Betsy Woodruff at NRO:
In about 24 hours, we’ll start getting results on one of the most colorful House races in recent memory. A South Carolina GOP insider close to the Sanford campaign tells me that Republicans are hoping for turnout to be between 13 and 19 percent. If turnout is in that window, as it was in the primary, then Sanford will probably have a good night. The same insider says that if African Americans in the district vote at the same rate that they did in the November 2012 elections, “then there will be some troubles.”
She also mentions that, after he cast his vote for himself earlier today, Sanford told reporters that he “won’t run again if he loses tonight. He’s had his shot at redemption, he said, and he won’t take more than one.” …Ahem. I will refrain from comment on that one.
It’s difficult to know what turnout is going to look like until it’s over, and the polls are open until 7 P.M. eastern — you can follow the live results here from Politico, and I’ll update with the winner when it’s announced.
Whichever party wins, the other will have a lot of esplainin’ to do — the Colbert Busch camp because the Democrats have sunk over $1 million into the race for naught, or the Sanford camp on how they could possibly have managed to lose the crimson district. Either way, I’d definitely put this bizarre race down in the “not even a little bit indicative of the 2014 midterms” category.
Update: You can follow the county-by-county results here; they’re already rolling in.
My math: for 50.1% in #SC01, Colbert Busch (D) needs 49% in Beaufort, 47% in Berkeley, 53% in Ch’ston, 34% in Colleton, 49% in Dorchester
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) May 7, 2013
Update: I’m going to hold it in until it’s official, but the Twitters has some thoughts:
$1.2 million in donations to Colbert Busch, $929,000 on independent expenditures against Sanford… FLUSH…
— jimgeraghty (@jimgeraghty) May 8, 2013
3 Qs: How will House Rs keep Sanford quiet? Will he be on TV so much he’s new face of GOP? Will any top R ‘primary’ Sanford in ’14? #SC1
— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) May 8, 2013
Update: Aaand, it’s official: With 226/317 precincts reporting, the AP is calling it for Sanford with 54 percent of the vote.
Update: The comeback is complete. Somewhere, Anthony Weiner is paying attention.
Former Republican South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford revived a scandal-scarred political career by winning back his old congressional seat Tuesday in a district that hasn’t elected a Democrat in three decades.
The comeback was complete when he defeated Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of political satirist Stephen Colbert. With 87 percent of the precincts reporting, Sanford had 54 percent of the vote.
Update: “We gave it a heck of a fight,” says Colbert Busch:
“I have a question for y’all: How many of you want to change Washington, D.C.?” Sanford said to cheers from supporters in Charleston, declaring that voters had sent “a message to Washington, D.C., and a messenger to Washington, D.C., on the importance of changing things in that fair city.”