Something strange and extraordinary happened to Mark "The Comeback Kid" Sanford over the past couple of weeks: He made a comeback — and a serious one at that. Public Policy Polling reported on Sunday night that he was leading Elizabeth Colbert Busch, a Democrat and sister to Stephen Colbert, in the special election for South Carolina's 1st congressional district. It's still a tight race, though. The PPP poll shows Sanford with 47 percent of the vote and Colbert Busch with 46 percent.
What's more notable, however, is that those numbers represent a ten point reversal in just two weeks. And even before those numbers came out, more than one pundit penned a piece about Sanford's changing of fortunes. "Mark Sanford just might win," wrote Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post on Sunday morning. "Given all of that, how the heck is Sanford in a jump-ball race to reclaim his old coastal Carolina seat on Tuesday? It’s a confluence of partisanship, candidate skills and, well, more partisanship."
As Cillizza says, the roll of partisanship is undeniable. It was a good move, for instance, when Sanford busted out the cardboard cutout of Nancy Pelosi on the campaign trail a little over a week ago. People in his district hate Nancy Pelosi. According to the same PPP Poll, Pelosi's approval in the district is as low as 24 percent. Since this is traditionally a Republican district, it's no big surprise that lots of people don't like Democrats, but it makes Colbert Busch's job of convincing enough voters to accept her and her colors much more difficult, when the race is no longer only about the candidates. And as Cillizza argues, "Colbert Busch’s campaign has been only okay" while "Sanford is a gifted candidate."
Unfortunately for Colbert Busch, there's not much time left. Election Day is Tuesday, and it's not like spending more money is going to work. She's already outspent Sanford by a multiple of four or five. Now that Sanford has the Tea Party's endorsement, it's hard to imagine his momentum will slow down, and it sounds like he's got the energy to sprint to the finish. As he told a crowd last week, "I'm just starting to preach!"