In a very public congressional race in South Carolina’s 1st district, some voters have reported receiving suspicious phone calls from pollsters asking debasing questions about Democratic candidate Elizabeth Colbert Busch.
“Push polling” is no stranger to South Carolina elections—the state has an extensive history of dirty politics. “A push poll is political telemarketing masquerading as a poll. No one is really collecting information. No one will analyze the data,” explained Kathy Frankovic, CBS News’ director of surveys in 2009. Candidates and organizations conduct polls consisting of questions that purposefully leave an unfavorable view of that candidate in the minds of the voters, and in this case with strategic timing, as just one week remains until the May 7th special election.
Think Progress reports two accounts of individuals who received one of these phone calls. The caller began by asking common questions, “but they quickly got slanted and they didn’t ask a single question about Sanford at all,” said April Wolford, who has been involved with South Carolina’s Democratic Party for some time.
Wolford and her friend Flo Rosse, who also answered the call from the “Unavailable” phone number, asked the caller who they were calling on behalf of. Rosse maintains she didn’t catch the name, but Wolford claims the caller was said to be from “SSI Polling,” a survey research company out of Connecticut.
“What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if I told you she had had an abortion? What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if I told you a judge held her in contempt of court at her divorce proceedings? What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if she had done jail time? What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if I told you she was caught running up a charge account bill?” were some of the absurd questions the caller asked that undoubtedly had no other purpose than to vilify Colbert Busch.
Elizabeth Colbert Busch and her Republican opponent, Mark Sanford, met at The Citadel on Monday night for their first and only debate, where aside from having to address his 2009 extramarital affairs, Sanford had an overall bad night against his Democratic counterpart.
There is no evidence that this phony poll was done at the request of the Sanford campaign. Joel Sawyer, Sanford’s spokesperson, told a South Carolina newspaper, “If it’s actually going on, it has nothing to do with us, and whoever is doing it should stop.” While it is still unknown who is responsible for funding this smear campaign, it’s clear that some entity has seen Colbert Busch’s poll numbers as well as her performance in Monday night’s debate and deemed her a serious threat to the GOP in South Carolina.
H/T: Think Progress
AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt