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South Carolina Special Election Today

by Carl Wicklander, published


It's just about 4:00 pm Central Time and there are about two hours before the polls close in the South Carolina special election between Mark Sanford and Elizabeth Colbert Busch. It's been one of the more bizarre races that I can recall, but that may be compounded by the fact that it's the only race going on right now.

Ordinarily, this would have been a Republican landslide. It's a heavily Republican district, so even with all of Mark Sanford's baggage, it's really just a matter of getting out the vote. Although the former governor trailed by almost double digits two weeks ago, the latest polls show him tied or slightly ahead. We'll chalk it up to a sharp debate performance a week ago and his tireless campaign.

Over at The Fix, Chris Cillizza points to the "5 Things to Watch." The most interesting outcome might be the "post-game spin." If Sanford wins, it'll be how the Democrats spent so much on a winnable seat only to come away with nothing. Plus, it'll have Sanford, an otherwise vulnerable Republican, in a safe seat.

If Colbert Busch wins, it'll probably be the real death knell of Sanford's career, so the spin will be about how he could lose such a safe Republican seat. However, it'll also be one of the easier House seats for the Republicans to re-claim in the 2014 midterms.

Also, if Colbert Busch wins, we can probably expect the over-interpretation from all media outlets of a single House special election. Meaning: We'll be hearing that it's likely that the Democrats will regain the House in 2014 because of this loss. Rather, if Colbert Busch wins, it will not be due to an especially good campaign - she has campaigned and debated not to lose - but other factors. True, she's a minor celebrity due to her comedian brother, but she also didn't make any big mistakes, and she had a uniquely flawed opponent. Tonight's outcome will have zero bearing on whether the Republicans keep the House.

So, at a little more than two hours before the polls close, I'm predicting a narrow Sanford victory. He's been successful in nationalizing the race and reminding voters that a Congresswoman Colbert Busch is likely going to be in league with Nancy Pelosi, who has spent big money in the first district. However weird he may be in his personal life, last week's debate he also showed that he is a formidable candidate, so the fact that he turned this race around shouldn't be surprising.

This is also Sanford's (albeit redrawn) former congressional district where he served from 1995-2001. There's been no gerrymandering on Sanford's part, so he has been campaigning among his traditional base of support: i.e. among people who have probably voted for him as many as five times before. As such, I'm predicting that the momentum will carry him to victory tonight. But since it's been a rocky four years, I see it being about 51-48, Sanford.

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