BRISTOL, Tenn., May 7, 2013 — Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford easily won election to the state’s First Congressional District. He routed comedian Stephen Colbert’s sister Elizabeth Colbert Busch by about ten percentage points. Recent polls had Colbert Busch ahead by nine points, although final polls showed a dead heat.
While Democrats are expected to blame the candidate herself, there is plenty of blame to go around.
Governor Sanford was seen as a very vulnerable candidate. The scandal that erupted during his gubernatorial term is well known. Yet this special election was a prime example of too many “seasoned” politicos failing to grasp simple concepts of politics and human nature.
Sanford was a flawed candidate, but those analyzing him had an even more flawed analysis.
Start with his extramarital affair. While nobody condones adultery, this was not a Spring fling. He ditched his security detail and claimed he was hitch-hiking in the Appalachians. He was actually in Argentina. Sanford certainly “done wrong,” but was motivated by what rock group Queen called a “Crazy little thing called love.” That does not excuse his actions, but it puts a human face on the situation. He was married to one woman and completely in love with another one. They are now engaged to be married.
He also asked for forgiveness from everybody and anybody, including people not deserving of it. He showed genuine contrition, and America is a forgiving society. Americans are also pretty astute when it comes to matters of the heart. They know the difference between a lothario and a guy in love.
Yet those who underestimated Sanford also completely over-estimated Colbert Busch. Her brother is a celebrity, but that matters in places like the Upper Westside of Manhattan and Hollywood, not Charleston and Hilton Head, South Carolina. Her brother, despite being a proud South Carolina boy made good, is still seen by some (perhaps unfairly) as just another Jon Stewart liberal elitist snob.
Two problems devoured Elizabeth Colbert Busch. The first one centered around her policy proposals. She had none. Her campaign was light on substance. Her entire rationale for running was that she was not Mark Sanford.
Candidates can win without standing for anything if they are part of a wave election. The Democrats retook Congress in 2006 without any governing agenda. Colbert Busch did not have that luxury. She was on her own. She was trying to run as a Democrat who would not be beholden to the liberal leadership. She even criticized Obamacare. Voters were not fooled, and South Carolina is not Massachusetts. Republicans nationalized the election by tying Colbert Busch to the currently flailing President Obama and the perpetually disliked Nancy Pelosi.
Sanford betrayed his marriage vows, but he governed as an authentic conservative. Colbert Busch tried to come across as a moderate, and the voters saw through it.
Yet the biggest blunder Colbert Busch made was getting in the gutter at the eleventh hour. Hardball politics can work, but it requires defining the other candidate early and often. This is what the Obama campaign did to Mitt Romney. Attacks late in a campaign reek of desperation. In their debate several days ago, Colbert Busch brought up Sanford’s marital transgressions.
She came across as nasty and shrill. Liberal Women will claim that these adjectives unfairly stereotype women, but the Newt Gingrich led GOP suffered the same backlash in the 1998 congressional elections by attacking Bill Clinton’s morality. People knew what Clinton and Sanford’s flaws were. They wanted to hear what the opponents would actually do in power. Colbert Busch simply came across as mean, and Sanford made people laugh by smiling and pretending not to hear what she said.
On the stage, with the klieg lights and the pressure on, the man with executive experience looked like a winner. The woman with neither that nor any campaign experienced went for the jugular and garotted her own.
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Sanford avoided the hypocrisy charge by admitting his flaws and repenting. Colbert Busch failed the temperament and likability test by hitting below the belt.
She acted like the worst stereotype of a liberal that conservatives have portrayed effectively in many parts of the country where liberalism itself is still disliked. She acted like a Wasserman-Schultz Pelosicrat.
For these reasons, the better candidate and person won, and with ease.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.”
Eric is 100% alcohol, tobacco, drug, and liberalism free. Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS. Follow us: @wtcommunities on Twitter
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