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Poll: Colbert Busch Opens Up Big Lead Over Sanford In South Carolina Special Election

Memo Pad Politics

Poll: Colbert Busch Opens Up Big Lead Over Sanford In South Carolina Special Election


According to the latest poll on the special election in South Carolina’s 1st congressional district, Mark Sanford may be at the end of his comeback trail.

Public Policy Polling finds that Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch has opened up a commanding 50 to 41 percent lead over Sanford in the closely-watched House race. Colbert Busch’s 9-point advantage represents a marked shift from PPP’s previous poll on March 26, when she led Sanford by just 2 percent (within the poll’s margin of error).

Sanford has nobody but himself to blame for his slide in the polls. The revelation that Sanford repeatedly trespassed on his ex-wife’s property has kept the former governor’s highly-publicized marital troubles in the headlines, which has clearly taken a toll on his numbers — 51 percent say that the trespassing charges give them doubts about Sanford’s fitness for public office, and 35 percent say that those doubts are “very serious.” The controversy certainly figures into Sanford’s abysmal 38 to 56 percent favorable/unfavorable rating.

Making matters worse for Sanford, the National Republican Campaign Committee decided to pull its support for Sanford in the wake of the trespassing scandal, leaving space for Democrats to dominate the airwaves. Unchecked exposure to attack ads like this vicious hit from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will surely complicate Sanford’s mission to convince voters that he is a changed man.

By contrast, Colbert Busch is personally quite popular in the state; 56 percent view her favorably, while 31 percent view her unfavorably and 13 percent are not sure. That makes her significantly more popular in the state than President Barack Obama, who holds just a 41 percent approval rating in South Carolina. Her lead over Sanford is built on a strong 51 to 35 percent advantage among independent voters, and the fact that she is capturing 19 percent of the Republican vote, while Sanford is supported by just 7 percent of Democrats.

Notably, the special election may be the first race to demonstrate the political effects of the Republican-led effort to block the expansion of gun sale background checks. The PPP poll finds that 86 percent of South Carolinians favor requiring background checks on individuals who purchase guns at gun shows. Despite the fact that 42 percent of respondents self-identified as Republicans and that Mitt Romney won the district by 18 percent in the 2012 election, 45 percent said that the Republican Party’s opposition to background checks at gun shows makes them less likely to support GOP candidates — 28 percent said it makes no difference, and just 21 percent said it makes them more likely to vote Republican.

Ultimately, the GOP’s registration advantage in the district gives Sanford a fighting chance of reclaiming the congressional seat that he held from 1995 to 2001. But unless he can rapidly rehabilitate his image over the next two weeks, Colbert Busch appears primed for an upset victory.

AP Photo/Bruce Smith, File

Henry Decker

Henry Decker was formerly the Managing Editor of The National Memo. He is currently an Online Associate at MRCampaigns.

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  1. bicfj April 23, 2013

    With this good news, why does the article feature a picture of Sanford?

  2. Dominick Vila April 23, 2013

    I doubt the citizens of South Carolina will vote for a man that not only committed adultery, but also used taxpayer’s money to pay for his dalliances. He is making even worse for himself by parading his attractive Argentinean wife in his political rallies. Southerners are social conservatives. I doubt they will ignore Sanford’s record and his unrepentant attitude.

    1. stcroixcarp April 23, 2013

      Not to mention the alien issue with the new wife. Is she marrying him to get a green card?

  3. Germansmith April 23, 2013

    I like Stephen Colbert and I know Sanford is a low life
    But what political experience and background have Elizabeth Colbert have?
    It is a real question, not trying to be funny

    1. Joseph Frollo April 23, 2013

      She’s a college professor, an economist and a specialist in maritime trade. She’s got the creds on her own.

      1. Germansmith April 23, 2013


      2. Greg Streuber May 9, 2013

        Well, lets just hope she didn’t quit her day job and that she was a good professor….she is going to need those “creds” now.

        1. Joseph Frollo May 9, 2013

          South Carolina 1 will get what it voted for – which is unfortunate for the people who live there.

    2. JR April 23, 2013

      not too much political experience, but lots of business experience. i don’t see why political experience matters for congressional races. I want Congress to reflect the diversity of the country, not just be a center for career politicians (which goes a long way towards explaining its current state).

      1. Germansmith April 23, 2013

        the diversity of our country also have very large groups of uneducated or corrupt or stupid or close minded individuals. If it is Ok, I would like to keep those out of Congress (there are plenty of them already there…well, maybe that reflects the “diversity of our country”).
        Politics is the art of the deal and that requires a sharp educated person able to negotiate….good intentions are not enough
        It appears she has the pedigree and education NOT to Sarah Palin herself

        1. DezJimmar April 23, 2013

          Wow! When did ‘Sarah Palin’ become a verb? I like it though. We tell our kids not to Sarah Palin themselves. (Translation: Don’t make a complete a$$ of yourselves.)

          1. Germansmith April 23, 2013

            Bingo…New eras deserves new words. When it get in Webster I would like to get credit for that. Another translation would be to “reach a level beyond their level of incompetence”

    3. irishtap April 23, 2013

      Fair question Germansmith, she seems to be very bright and by all accounts I’ve seen, has integrity. Sanford is a smart guy that has done stupid things and has no integrity. In short Sanford is among the better GOP candidates for office (having the smart thing going on but zero integrity) while Colbert is a more complete human being with no axe to grind. She has a history of ‘independent thinking’, which is a boost to representative government.

    4. Adam Wu April 23, 2013

      Since the choice is between her and Sanford, and I count Sanford’s political experience and background as negative, even if it is zero, Colbert-Busch wins hands down on this metric.

    5. Eleanore Whitaker April 24, 2013

      Who ever said that political experience is an asset? If you compare the political experience of Lindsay Graham, who can sidle up with the best of the GOP bois, that’s no asset. A lot of Americans across the US are cleaning house. Enough with the imposition of GOP hardship on the MIddle Class while the Upper Crust lives so high on the hog, they’ve turned pork into caviar.

    6. nyc_nystate April 25, 2013

      I appreciate your question. It’s a good one. I don’t want low-lifes on either side to serve in Congress (or actually be alive lol). Hopefully Ms. C-B will surround herself with the right people. She seems to be a nice person with some good credentials. There are people like Joe Walsh (R-IL) and others who are just nasty and incompetent.

  4. Lovefacts April 23, 2013

    Will wonders never cease. It seems even South Carolina is tired of the double talk and able to look beyond talking points to actual action and behavior.

  5. AnnMarieCad April 23, 2013

    I found this being the “Bible belt”. When they walk out of that church and the preacher is hell and damnation on Obama and demarcates, you just never know !!. But demarcates are growing. She is strong here in Florence, Sanford move over.

    1. Greg Streuber May 9, 2013

      He is moving…..to Washington.

  6. DurdyDawg April 23, 2013

    Look.. I’m no Pub or teepeer but I think thumbing down a candidate because, ” Sanford repeatedly trespassed on his ex-wife’s property” while overlooking political corruption and blatant position abusers is screwy. Though I’m satisfied that a Dem is ahead, I think we should rid our g’ment of thugs and crime bosses who are already in the mix rather than concentrate on what may occur if they’re (re) elected. To rid our leadership of scum is great but do we have to use domestic tactics to do it? That’s like sentencing Al Capone for tax evasion rather than the murders he committed. It’s spring people, time to clean house of all adulterous bottom feeders.

  7. ralphkr April 23, 2013

    One thing for sure, Sanford does have high name recognition in SC. Isn’t that supposed to be a good thing???

    1. False Dichotomy April 25, 2013

      Is that you, Santa Claus? 🙂 Haha… love it.

  8. Eleanore Whitaker April 24, 2013

    I think the people of SC are fed up with their government. They know the salaries in these conservatives states are restrictively lower than other places in the country. They’ve been handed a GOP trade off of low state taxes, only if they agree to lower salaries they can barely live on. I also believe that many in the red states are fed up being looked at as ignorant and unresponsive to their own state’s true needs. Sanford’s loss may well become the conservative states “Reformation Spring.”

  9. Guy P. Fraser April 24, 2013

    Sanford self destructed,when he developed the zipper problem. He NEVER WAS the good Governor,some would have you believe.

  10. Ron Carr April 24, 2013

    He should just take a hike. Get it? Take a hike?

  11. pbrower2a April 25, 2013

    The South has more familiarity with the Hard Right than does any other part of the country. It has traditionally had swings from aristocratic conservatism to populism about every forty years, and the time is about right. It may be hard to remember, but for about a decade the South (the 1970s) was more liberal on economic issues than the North.

  12. False Dichotomy April 25, 2013

    If I were an extra-judgmental prick, I’d probably say that this Sanford creep looks like a textbook drunk.

  13. mhandrh April 26, 2013

    Rand Paul said he’d endorse Sanford — FWIW.


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