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Former Republican South Carolina governor Mark Sanford has edged ahead of Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch in Tuesday’s special election for the S.C. 1st District congressional race.
Sanford and Colbert Busch are vying for the seat left vacant when Tim Scott left his House seat to finish out the U.S. Senate term of Jim DeMint, who resigned to run the Heritage Foundation.
A new Public Policy Polling survey shows Sanford with a one percentage-point lead. Two weeks ago he trailed by nine points.
Sanford, who in 2009 revealed an affair with an Argentinian woman, has made an unlikely comeback, and the difference in the race could have to do with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Sanford has tried to portray his rival, Colbert Busch, who is the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, as a Pelosi clone. He even debated a cardboard cut-out of Pelosi.
Andy Shain, political reporter for the State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., said while many people around the country are surprised that Sanford might win the race, people in South Carolina are shocked that Republicans are in such a tight race.
“This should be a touchdown for Republicans, instead, they’ll be lucky to get a field goal,” Shain said.
Shain points out that the district is solidly red: Mitt Romney won the district by 18 points.
And he said while the latest poll shows the candidates in a dead-heat, the turn-out could make all the difference.
In the primary race, Sanford won about 40,000 votes in a run-off with his closest rival, whereas, Colbert Busch garnered only 15,000 votes in the Democratic primary.
And Sanford is well-known in the Charleston-area, having represented most of it for three terms in Congress during the 1990s. In his two races for governor, he won the region by a wide margin and has never lost a political race. A tea party favorite, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, endorsed him last week.