Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 14, 2016

Partisanship Ruled in South Carolina Special Election

(Davis Turner/Getty Images)

(Davis Turner/Getty Images)

Mark Sanford’s victory in the special election in South Carolina’s 1st District tell us little new about the 2014 elections. But it does serve as a reminder about one important factor in American politics that shouldn’t be ignored when the midterms roll around: partisanship.

At the end of the day, most Republican voters in the district decided to vote Republican, even though their nominee had more than his share of warts.

Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch might well have won in a more competitive district, but she could not convince Republican voters — conservative Republican voters — that she was a safe choice or that Sanford was unacceptable.

Mitt Romney carried the district with 58.3 percent of the vote in 2012, and John McCain won it with 56.1 percent in 2008. Sanford’s percentage of the vote in the special election fell only slightly below those levels, at 54 percent of the vote, according to the South Carolina State Election Commission.

But it’s also worth noting that Colbert Busch failed to carry Charleston, which often goes Democratic.

Romney lost the county to President Barack Obama 50.8 percent to 48 percent last year, and Democrat Vince Sheheen carried the county by almost the same margin against Republican Nikki R. Haley in the 2010 gubernatorial race. In 2008, Democrat Linda Ketner carried the county by more than 10,000 votes against the incumbent, Republican Rep. Henry E. Brown Jr.

Sanford’s victory probably takes the seat off the political table for 2014 and reinforces something that I have already believed for months: The House playing field will be relatively narrow next year.

(Read more Stu Rothenberg on the 2014 elections in Roll Call: Ranking Potential Flips for 2014 House Rematches)

  • notruthinpolitics

    yes, just like DC, Maryland, New York, California, etc. voters tend to vote for their candidate’s party. Why is this even a column?

    • jmr012

      Because Sanford is such a total sleazebag. These people voted for a disgraced sleazebag simply due to partisanship over a decent person who would have served them much better.

      • 1mrt1

        Republicans Forgave Sanford (plus they knew his voting record), and Democrats demonize and insult.

        • floridawasp

          Republicans only forgive other Republicans. A somewhat limited world view but it does keep life simple.

          • 1mrt1

            I forgive democrats I just dont forget. That is a good point though as I dont deny my partisanship.

      • H Warnock-Graham

        And had Sanford been a Democrat, the Republicans would be carrying on like tom cats on the trail of a female in heat….

  • Pro_bono_publico

    Democrat campaign operatives are not as smart as most of them think they are. The timing of the leak of the sealed family court filings by Sanford’s ex-wife was two weeks too soon. If they had waited until about seven to ten days before the election, Republican voters would not have had time to recover from their initial reaction and many would have either stayed home or voted for Colbert-Busch.

    Of course, the classic October surprise was the Democrats’ leaking of George W. Bush’s purported DUI in Maine on the Thursday before the 2000 general election; Bush has no time to recover, no time to explain, and it almost certainly cost him a national popular majority against Al Gore. But those details were all lost in the “stolen Florida election” narrative of the Democrats.

  • H Warnock-Graham

    Mark Sanford is, like Vitter, Gingrich, Issa and so many others, the moral face of Republicans and their “Christian” values. Democrats may have as many ethical challenges but don’t lay claim to moral high ground.

  • floridawasp

    At least the ppl of S.C. can be proud of the high morals and family values of their congressman. That is the important thing, right?

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