Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Are South Carolina Republicans Going To Hand Elizabeth Colbert Busch A Path To Victory Today?


Today is run-off day in South Carolina's first congressional district, a strip of coast below Myrtle Beach and Georgetown almost as far as Savannah's suburbs (including white Charleston south of Calhoun Street). On Saturday we pointed out that underdog Curtis Bostic had Man-On-Dog Rick Santorum campaigning for him-- as well as hilarious endorsements from Ann Coulter, religious right charlatan James Dobson, and the district's former congressman, once-removed, Henry Brown.

Conventional wisdom has it that this deeply red district-- Romney beat Obama 58.3-40.2% (mostly because the latest GOP gerrymander ghettoized all the African-American neighborhoods into SC-06 next door, where Obama won 70.9-28.1%)-- could be in play. In November Tea Party Republican Tim Scott was reelected 62-35% but the seat is now open because he was appointed to the Senate seat vacated by Jim DeMint. Districts this red aren't normally in play. But because disgraced ex-governor Mark Sanford appears likely to win the primary, mainstream voters will have to decide if they're buying in to his pious claims of redemption. Too implausible? South Carolina is the capital of the Culture of Personal Crisis, where everyday is Jerry Springer Day and where celebrating pious claims of redemption, no matter how opportunistic, are a standard way of life.

The general election is May 7, so there will be plenty of time for voters to mull this over. But it certainly appears that Republican primary voters have already made up their hive mind. It looks like by the end of the night, the Colbert Busch camp will be celebrating. Her only real chance lies in a Sanford primary win. Even with Coulter's stark prediction that if Sanford is the nominee, Colbert Busch will win the seat-- oddly reminiscent of her prediction about a Romney debacle-- GOP voters just cannot resist that Culture of Personal Crisis drama-- not even with Pat Boone endorsing Bostic!
He finished a distant second in the first round of voting, with 13 percent, compared to Sanford’s 37 percent.

And despite the high-profile endorsements, there are no clear evidence Bostic has done much to rally the voters who backed other candidates in the first round of voting.

“It's Sanford's to win-- he's a professional politician and knows how to run a race,” said Katon Dawson, a former head of the South Carolina Republican Party.

Just one of the 14 other Republicans who ran for the seat has backed Bostic, while six have endorsed Sanford.

Bostic emerged from first round of voting flat broke and has been able to spend only $40,000 on television during the runoff, while Sanford is flush with cash and has advertised heavily.

Those watching the race closely say Sanford remains the heavy favorite to win, but note that the likelihood of an extremely low turnout could play to Bostic’s advantage.

“It's two days after Easter, it's spring break in the low country, and neither one has a ton of extensive get-out-the-vote, I know for a fact,” Dawson said. “Still, it would be the surprise of the year if Curtis wins.”

A recent poll from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling showed Sanford leading Bostic by 53 to 40 percent, though special elections and House primaries are notoriously hard to predict.
Politico's Alex Isenstadt is also predicting that the final match-up will be between Colbert Busch and Sanford. "[I]f polling proves accurate, Sanford’s universal name ID, bigger war chest and carefully tailored plea for redemption to the district’s large contingent of social conservatives will prove too much for his little-known rival to match."
How Sanford has managed to bring himself back from the political wilderness is just the latest test of voters’ willingness to look beyond their elected officials’ transgressions. Sanford purposefully crafted a message of remorse and redemption that he believed would resonate with socially conservative voters who dot the district.

His personal troubles, Sanford tells voters, have made him a more religious person. He said at the debate that he had failed “very publicly”-- but insisted that he’s learned from his mistakes.

“I think, by and large, people are forgiving, especially if they believe your repentance is real. If they believe you are asking for forgiveness authentically and sincerely, then I think people are willing to give people a second chance. I’ve been around the governor, and it seems authentic and sincere to me,” [South Carolina GOP Chairman Chad] Connelly said. “I do think the people of the 1st Congressional District know him well. He’s run there before, and they’ve supported him. If there’s any group that’s willing to give him a second chance, this is it.”

...Sanford is also benefiting from simply being better known than his opponents. At the restaurant, he was treated like a celebrity as diners asked to have their photo taken with him. And as he stumped at the Charleston strip mall, it was hard to find a passerby who didn’t do a double take when the former governor walked by. Many of them stopped to talk with Sanford and to offer him their congratulations.

Long known for his love of retail politics, Sanford ate it up. He asked some voters for their phone numbers so he could call later to discuss the issues they were interested in. Bostic, by contrast, has struggled to draw sizable crowds. Even a joint appearance last week with former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, a favorite among Christian conservatives, was sparsely attended.

“I just think Bostic has too little, too late,” said Warren Tompkins, a longtime Republican strategist in the state. “I think Sanford is going to win by a pretty significant margin.”
Colbert Busch is holding her breath. The latest PPP survey of the district shows her and Bostic tied 43-43%-- but shows her beating Sanford 47-45%. Over the weekend, The State did an in-depth look at Colbert Busch and found her pretty credible as a person and a candidate, also focusing on her strategy:
South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District changed in 2011 when lawmakers created a new, 7th Congressional District anchored in Horry County.

The Republican strongholds of Horry and Georgetown counties were removed from the 1st District. Remaining are Beaufort, Charleston and Hilton Head Island.

“Dropping Horry and Georgetown, it has made this district much more Libertarian-leaning, much more fiscally conservative to the point that social issues aren’t nearly as important to the average Republican voter,” said Scott Buchanan, a political science professor at The Citadel in Charleston. “I don’t think it’s necessarily making it friendly for Democrats, but making it more friendly for those who run a fiscally conservative platform. People more willing to give you a pass on the social issues.”

It appears Colbert Busch is shaping her campaign along that model. She supports gay marriage, telling The State newspaper in an interview “this is a matter of civil rights and this is a matter of equal protection under the law.” And she supports “a tough but fair path to citizenship” for the country’s millions of undocumented immigrants, including having them pay back taxes.

“This is about keeping the best and the brightest in our country. We have to find a sensible way to be able to keep them here,” she said.

And when she starts talking about fiscal policy, she sounds more like a Republican-- drawing on her 25 years of business experience, railing about the nation’s $16 trillion debt and saying on her website that “if Congress were a business, our leaders would be fired.”

She said she is not in favor of new taxes “in the short term” but did not say if, or when, Congress should raises taxes to address the budget deficit. She says she is against the budget sequester-- the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts that went into effect March 1-- pointing out the federal government first needs to get rid of fraud, waste and abuse, especially in the Medicare program.

She says the Medicare program-- health insurance for anyone over 65-- could save $24 billion a year if Congress would allow the program to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on prices. And she cites studies from the federal Government Accountability Office and the nonprofit Rand Corporation estimating Medicare has $142 billion in overpayments and fraud, waste and abuse each year.

“Here is ... $166 billion that we know from the GAO is in fraud, waste, overbilling and pharmaceuticals, right? And that’s just one part of the entire budget. But that one part is twice what the sequester is,” she said. “We have to look through the entire budget, find out where else are we overpaying.”

She added that “being fiscally conservative is not unique to any party”-- which is true, especially when you are potentially running against Mark Sanford. The former governor probably won’t win over many social conservatives because of his lying and cheating on his wife in 2009. But conservatives love his record on fiscal issues, which Sanford would undoubtedly make a major part of his campaign should he win on Tuesday.
Brad Friedman points out another advantage Republicans have in the May 7th general election-- they control the vote counting apparatus, "the state's oft-failed, easily-hacked, always 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting systems. The candidate announced as the 'winner' of that election, based on those unverifiable voting systems, will either be the one who received the most votes from SC voters in the 1st Congressional District-- or the one who didn't. There will never be any way for anybody to know for sure one way or the other."

UPDATE: Latest Polling

One of the most consistently accurate polling companies in the country, Celinda Lake Partners, was out with a new poll late yesterday, paid for by the Colbert Busch campaign, showing Colbert Busch beating Sanford in a general election match-up 47-44%, just slightly better than the PPP survey from last week.

LAST UPDATE: No Surprises From GOP Primary Voters

Sanford won everywhere but Beaufort County, taking 26,066 votes (57%) to Bostic's 20,005 (43%). Keep in mind what Ann Coulter predicted: "If, in some horrible twist of fate that's been stalking Republicans, Sanford wins the runoff, he will lose the general election. Worse, he might win, making Republicans look like utter hypocrites on family values.

"In any event, so many resources will have to be diverted to save an easy Republican House seat that even if Sanford wins, some other Republican candidate will lose a close election after having to beg for money.

"And the payoff is: Yay! We win one of the most Republican districts in the country with a high-risk candidate!"

"The Republican Party owes Sanford nothing. He had a chance and he blew it. National Review wasted five years of cover stories on how awesome he was, but he never accomplished anything of substance."

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At 10:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

who cares what those idiots do


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