According to a new Public Policy Polling poll, embattled Republican Mark Sanford has reclaimed the momentum in the special election in South Carolina’s 1st congressional district, and now holds a narrow lead over Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch.
The poll finds Sanford leading Colbert Busch by a razor-thin 47 to 46 percent margin, with 4 percent supporting Green Party candidate Eugene Platt and 4 percent undecided. The poll, which surveyed 1,239 likely voters on May 4th and 5th, has a +/- 2 percent margin of error — making the race a statistical toss-up.
This represents a dramatic shift from PPP’s previous poll on April 23rd, which found that Colbert Busch had opened up a 9 percent lead on Sanford in the wake of the revelation that the former governor had trespassed on his ex-wife’s property.
Sanford’s comeback can be at least partially attributed to his successful effort to tie Colbert Busch to the national Democratic Party. Although some of Sanford’s tactics — particularly his decision to debate a cardboard cutout of Nancy Pelosi on a Columbia street corner — were widely mocked, they appear to have had a tangible impact. A 47 percent plurality now says that Colbert Busch’s positions on the issues are too liberal, and her favorability rating has dropped a net 19 percent in the past two weeks.
Sanford’s best asset remains the strong rightward lean of the district, which voted for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama by a 13 percent margin in 2012. Although Sanford remains quite unpopular personally — just 43 percent view him favorably, compared to 54 percent who view him unfavorably — a 48 percent plurality says that his positions on the issues are “about right.” Furthermore, Sanford is significantly more popular than the Democratic leaders to whom he has tied Colbert Busch. Voters say they have a higher opinion of Sanford than of President Barack Obama by a 48 to 44 percent margin, and they overwhelmingly prefer Sanford to Pelosi, 53 to 37 percent.
The PPP poll is the second recent survey to show the race coming down to the wire; on Thursday, a Red Racing Horses poll found the candidates locked in a 46 to 46 percent deadlock.
Although Sanford holds the momentum in the polls, Colbert Busch did receive some good news over the weekend. On Sunday, the Charleston Post And Courier endorsed the Democrat, writing that “Ms. Colbert Busch’s resolve to reach across the aisle would serve the 1st District — and the nation — well.” The Post And Courier, which is the largest newspaper in the district, has historically supported Republican candidates, including Romney and South Carolina senator Tim Scott.
AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt, File