According to the latest Public Policy Polling poll, Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch holds a narrow lead over Republican Mark Sanford in the special election for U.S. represenative in South Carolina’s 1st District.
The poll finds Colbert Busch leading Sanford by a statistically insignificant 47 to 45 percent margin, with 8 percent not sure. The poll’s margin of error is +/- 2.9 percent.
Colbert Busch’s strong numbers are largely driven by the strong support of her base — 81 percent of those who describe themselves as very or somewhat liberal have a favorable opinion of Colbert Busch, while just 49 percent of very or somewhat conservative respondents have a favorable opinion of Sanford. In a head-to-head matchup, 89 percent of Democrats would vote for Colbert Busch, while just 76 percent of Republicans would vote for Sanford.
Sanford is also having trouble with self-described moderate voters — 61 percent of moderates view Colbert Busch favorably, while 17 percent view her unfavorably. By contrast, just 25 percent of moderates view Sanford favorably, while 67 percent view him unfavorably.
Overall, it seems that Sanford’s redemption message is not yet sinking in — 58 percent have an unfavorable opinion of the former South Carolina governor, who famously disappeared from office to carry on an extramarital affair in Argentina. Just 34 percent view Sanford favorably.
Still, Sanford’s numbers have significant room to grow. South Carolina’s 1st District is solidly Republican; 45 percent of the district self-identifies as Republican, compared to 30 percent Democrat and 25 percent Independent/other. Furthermore, just 41 percent of those in the district view President Obama favorably, while 57 percent have an unfavorable opinion of the president.
Before Sanford faces Colbert Busch, he must face former Charleston City Council member Curtis Bostic in an April 2nd runoff. Despite some high-profile endorsements for Bostic, Sanford is expected to easily win the runoff — he leads Bostic 53 to 40 percent according to PPP. If Sanford can win over Bostic’s Republican supporters after the runoff, then he will be in strong position to reclaim the congressional seat that he held from 1995 through 2001.
Colbert Busch’s numbers also have significant room to change, as 24 percent still have no opinion of the Clemson University administrator. One option for raising Colbert Busch’s profile could be stepping up the use of her brother, comedian Stephen Colbert, as a campaign surrogate. Colbert is relatively popular in the district, with 36 percent holding a favorable opinion of him and 27 percent viewing him unfavorably.
The full results of the poll can be seen here.