For a brief moment this week, former S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford’s political comeback appeared beyond resuscitation. Trespassing allegations leveled by his ex-wife and a reversion to the chronic narcissism that compound his previous scandals had soured voters in the first congressional district against his candidacy.
Perhaps beyond any hope of him recovering … which is remarkable when you consider Sanford seemed on track to win this special election just last week.
“The narrative was going his way,” one Republican consultant told FITS. “Then an incident took place and it reminded people of why they hate Mark Sanford.”
Meanwhile national Democrats stepped up their attacks … and national Republicans pulled the plug on supporting the former governor.
Late this week it got worse as an independent expenditure group announced a write-in campaign on behalf of fiscally conservative S.C. Senator Larry Grooms – who narrowly missed making the GOP runoff against Sanford last month.
Facing a nine point deficit against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert-Busch – with momentum continuing to slip away from him – Sanford appeared to be on the verge of getting routed.
Then he caught two key breaks at a time when his campaign had – and we mean had – to have them.
First, he received an endorsement from former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul – the fiscal conservative, social libertarian Godfather who is able to rally extensive fundraising and grassroots support. Then Grooms emphatically rebuked the write-in effort on his behalf – and told first district voters to support Sanford.
Obviously neither of those two things is going to win this race for Sanford, but they gave his campaign a pulse.
“It bears repeating: We’re talking about a very Republican district where Mitt Romney won by 18 points,” observes Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post. “It’s a district full of country club Republican voters who will eat up the fiscally conservative rhetoric Sanford has been dishing out and look favorably upon his record on spending.”
That’s true, but Sanford is facing plenty of dissension within the GOP ranks – as evidenced by the lack of support he’s receiving from Curtis Bostic, the “Republican” he defeated in this month’s GOP runoff.
Can he still win?
Yes … but in addition to running a mistake-free race over the next ten days Sanford is going to have to find some way of undoing the damage he’s done over the previous week. And that’s going to take more than putting up homespun signs and debating cardboard cutouts.