Category Archives: 1st Congressional District

New York has SC’s 1st District to blame for Spitzer return

Sanford, having his Spitzer moment. Now Spitzer wants to have a Sanford moment.

Sanford, having his Spitzer moment. Now Spitzer wants to have a Sanford moment.

“The Fix” over at The Washington Post mentioned it in the lede of their Spitzer story:

It’s officially the year of the political comeback, with Mark Sanford winning a congressional seat and Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer attempting their own second acts in New York City…

The New York Times was discreet enough to save it until the 3rd graf:

…His re-emergence comes in an era when politicians — like Representative Mark Sanford of South Carolina and the New York mayoral contender Anthony D. Weiner — have shown that public disapproval, especially over sexual misconduct, can be fleeting, and that voters seem receptive to those who seek forgiveness and redemption….

“It,” of course, is the embarrassing decision by the voters of South Carolina’s 1st District to send Mark Sanford to Congress again.

It’s apparently just given all sorts of bad actors bad ideas.

It shouldn’t. Just because voters in one state elected one guy who couldn’t keep his pants zipped (or even stay in this country when he was supposed to be on duty as governor of SC) doesn’t mean a whole other set of voters will vote for a whole other guy who also spectacularly engaged in misdeeds of a sexual nature. Particularly when the two men are so different politically, and their respective electorates are so different. It’s not like they’re all running on the “adultery” ticket, and that’s the political flavor of the month or something.

But national media too often act as though there is a real connection, and I fear that the backers and political consultants and hangers-on who talk these guys into making these comeback attempts do take such absurd, superficial, incidental correlations into consideration.

These things have been inextricably joined by national media since the start. The day that Mark Sanford did his super-painful (to watch, anyway) confessional presser, I was walking over to the State House for it, not exactly knowing what to expect, when an editor from The New York Post (in whose behalf I was on the way to cover the thing), called me on my old Blackberry to ask what I knew. Not much, I had to tell him. He asked, “Is he going to have a Spitzer moment?” I said again I didn’t know, although yeah, it was possible. I had been hearing things the last couple of days, but what I had heard was so sketchy and dubious that I didn’t want to embarrass myself promising such wild stuff when I had insufficient reason to believe any of it. (The only thing I had to go on was the governor’s bizarre disappearance, and his showing up that morning on a flight from Argentina.)

Then, when Sanford finally came out and started talking, I kept thinking, Wow, it was all actually true.

So now, they’re all like, Spitzer’s gonna try to do a Sanford.

Thanks, 1st District. Thanks so much.

Robert Ariail’s perspective on Sanford’s win


Since we have the last installment of Clare’s report on the Mark Sanford campaign today, I thought I’d also share Robert Ariail’s take on the Sanford victory.

Robert said he’d had this idea kicking around since election night, and just decided to go ahead and do it for today, before he lost the opportunity completely…

An insider’s perspective on the Sanford campaign, Part III

Scott English, Clare Morris and Keith Munson on election night.

Scott English, Clare Morris and Keith Munson on election night.

This is the third and final installment of Clare Morris’ report on her brief stint working on the Mark Sanford campaign in the 1st Congressional District special election. Here are links to Part I and Part II:

How I Spent the Final Days of Mark Sanford’s Congressional Campaign – Part Three

 By Clare Morris

Tuesday, May 7th – Election Day and Victory Party!

My friend Lauren FitzHugh and I headed over to the victory party HQ at Liberty Tap in Mount Pleasant late that afternoon in case we could help Joel Sawyer with any reporter logistics.

I texted someone to ask whether he was going to the victory party and he asked me whether I was predicting a win. Lauren answered for me saying, you don’t call it a “Whatever Party.”

The folks from a Charleston TV station overheard someone say that I had gone to college with Mark and wanted to interview me about that.

Of course, that’s not what it was about. It went a little like this:

Interviewer: “So, I understand that you went to college with Mark Sanford?”

Me: “Yes, I did.” (Big Smile)

Interviewer: “So, we’ve had the Appalachian Trail debacle, followed by the numerous ethics violations, and now these new trespassing allegations by his ex-wife. How do you think he’s handled those things?”

Me: (Brief Startled Look) “Well, I think that we all have had the experience in our lives of hurting the people we love. However, for the rest of us, those transgressions were not played out on the national stage.”

Interviewer: “So, do you think the voters will forgive him?”

Me: (Ready for a Glass of Wine) “I don’t think this election is about forgiveness. I think it’s about who is the most capable of doing the job. Mark’s experience is what voters should weigh in for this special election.”

It was mercifully over then.

As it got closer and closer to the polls closing at 7, there was heightened energy in the room. More and more former Sanford staffers started pouring in, and it turned into a fun, light-hearted reunion of sorts.

Daniel Layfield was there. He’s a successful lawyer now at an international law firm in Charleston, but was Scott English’s intern back in the day.

I also got to catch-up with my buddy Scott and with Keith Munson – a prominent attorney in Greenville. (See pic above).

Scott English, who is now the chief of staff for State Education Superintendent Mick Zais, and I go way back to the mid-‘90s, when I was Mark’s press secretary in Washington and Scott was a legislative assistant and, later, the legislative director. Scott then became Mark’s LD and then chief of staff when he was governor. We enjoyed working together so much in DC that another staffer once complained to Mark that we created an “Animal House” type atmosphere in the office.

Will Folks rolled in in a suit and set up his laptop outside on the porch to file his story on the election results for his blog, FitsNews. As most people know, Will was Mark’s press secretary back in the day. Just as recently as March, The Washington Post declared FitsNews one of the most influential state political blogs in the country.Faith,Clare

Another old friend I was very excited about seeing was former SC Secretary of Commerce Bob Faith (at right). Bob and I worked together during Mark’s first term. We actually went to China and Japan ten years ago for an investment mission (see pic below from Shanghai). He continues to rock it with his super-successful real estate company, Greystar,

When the polls closed, we were all eagerly checking the SC State Election Commission website in case we could see any early results. We couldn’t, and kept trying as the night went on. Then the early numbers started trickling in, and Mark’s opponent was winning in Charleston County. The poll numbers had been so tight leading up to the election, we weren’t really shocked, but were certainly a little disappointed and apprehensive.

It seemed like forever until the results showed an advantage for Mark. (It probably wasn’t that long, but it sure felt like it at the time).

I was so busy catching up with old friends and colleagues that the time really slipped by and suddenly, such press outlets as Politico and The Washington Post were declaring Mark the winner.

The stage was flooded with Mark and his family and long-time supporters. His sweet Mom, Peg, was looking on with such pride and so was his fun sister, Sarah. Also, I saw his oldest son, Marshall, who made a special trip home from UVA to be with his Dad on election night.

Lauren and I realized at the same time that María Belén Chapur was on the stage behind Mark. (I’d learned recently that she actually doesn’t go by María, but by her middle name, which is Belén).

Anyway, her presence at the victory party caused a lot of excitement in the crowd.

Will described her as one of the “Winners” in that special election in his May 8th blog:

María Belén Chapur … Sanford’s mistress-turned-fiancée was the undisputed star of the governor’s victory celebration. Decked out in a black Donna Karan dress and three-inch peeptoe sling backs, the tanned, toned Argentine bombshell stole this show.

After Mark gave his victory speech, Belén unobtrusively slipped off the stage and walked to a less crowded and quieter part of the restaurant. Lauren and I made it our business to try to meet her without being “stalker-ish”.

Well, we caught up with her and introduced ourselves in our own perky kind of way. The thing that struck me the most, aside from Belén’s drop-dead gorgeousness, was how incredibly warm she is. I put out my hand to shake hers and she leaned in and took it in both her hands. She smiled and nodded as Lauren and I were talking to her. The acoustics in there were pretty bad, so I’m sure that she had a little trouble understanding us. The other thing that was really apparent to me about Belén was a sense of serenity and stillness. She seemed like the type of kind friend you would seek out for comfort at the end of a really long and bad day.

This totally gross guy interrupted us, so our visit was unexpectedly cut short. Belén told Mark later that we all had met and that she was afraid that we thought she was rude. He called to tell me that, and I assured him that it was the exact opposite – we were totally charmed by her.



Ms. Clare Folio Morris is the CEO of the Clare Morris Agency, Inc. (CMA). In 2006, Clare was thrilled to launch her own public relations agency with several colleagues from the SC Department of Commerce. CMA, which recently celebrated its 7th birthday, specializes in helping organizations that are working to make the state more globally competitive.
Ms. Morris is the proud Mom of Roe (23) – a 2011 Furman graduate who works in international finance in New York City and Andrew (20) – an ethical computer hacker in Reston, VA.
She was recently chosen as one of five 2013 Women of Influence by the Greater Columbia Business Monthly.
You can reach her at

An insider’s perspective on the Sanford campaign, Part II

Clare with Karen Tumulty.

Clare with Karen Tumulty.

Here’s the second installment of Clare Morris’ report on her brief stint working on the Mark Sanford campaign for the 1st Congressional District:

How I Spent the Fin­­al Days of Mark Sanford’s Congressional Campaign – Part Two

By Clare Morris

Monday Evening, May 6

That Monday evening, the campaign had a volunteer-appreciation cookout behind the raggedy headquarters for everyone, and media were invited. I was super stoked because I was hoping to meet some national reporters.

Well, I got to meet Karen Tumulty (see pic) who was with Time for many years and now is with The Washington Post. I’ve always been a big fan of Karen’s because she is so not shrill. Her low-key and measured manner is such a welcome addition to the Sunday morning news show clamor. I told her as much and she seemed pleased in her modest way. My friend Lauren FitzHugh and I chatted her up and complimented Karen on her sassy red jacket and found out that she’d gotten it on sale at Talbot’s.

Late in the afternoon before the reporters arrived, Joel Sawyer, Mark’s campaign spokesperson, pulled all the volunteers together and gave them the 411 about the festivities. He let everyone know that reporters were invited and that they might be asked to give comments. He told them that it was up to them if they felt comfortable doing interviews. Again, with more campaign Zen – Joel told them that under no circumstances should they say anything bad about the opponent.

That evening was a really fun time! Although I’m busting on the headquarters for being raggedy, the burgers and dogs at the cookout were really yummy. The atmosphere, which was the same the short time I was in Charleston, was one of youthful optimism.

One of the most fun things about my little stint at the end of the campaign was seeing old friends from my time in Washington in the mid-‘90’s. What a great surprise to see April [Derr], Paige [Herrin Stowell], and Marie [Dupree] when I walked into campaign headquarters on that Monday! Back in the day, April was Mark’s district director and then chief of staff and Paige and Marie shared his scheduling responsibilities. It was so fun to see them all seamlessly slip back into their old roles and hear their perky chatter as they worked on stuff together.

It’s no understatement to say that Mark has more than his share of detractors.

However, it’s a special person who evokes such loyalty in former staff and friends.

These former staffers of twenty-plus years rearranged their lives and in some instances, made sacrifices to come and support him. Now, that says something.

Tuesday, May 7 – Election Day!

There was a subdued sense of excitement at the campaign headquarters on Election Day. Game Day, right? Mark had a very aggressive schedule, just like he’d had all during the campaign. I’d heard that he had eleven different places to be that day, while his opponent had four.

More former staffers and volunteers kept streaming in. The atmosphere continued to be cautiously optimistic.

The Charleston Post and Courier did not endorse Mark, but no one seemed particularly surprised by that. In fact, no one on the campaign ever mentioned it to me. I just know because I read the paper one morning at breakfast. It makes me wonder whether newspaper endorsements are as important as they used to be.

Again, I wore a dress and heels so that no one would ask me to hold up signs. Ten years ago, I helped with the last days of his gubernatorial campaign and did more than my share of sign-holding.

This Election Day was so different for me than the one ten years ago. For one thing, then I’d drawn the short straw and had to help Jenny get ready for the victory party.

That consisted of Jenny sending me into different party stores to pick things up and then telling me that I wasn’t doing it right.

More to come…the results coming in, the victory party, and meeting Maria.

An insider’s perspective on the Sanford campaign, Part I

The author with the candidate.

The author with the candidate.

Several weeks ago, my friend Clare Morris said she planned to go down to Charleston and volunteer in Mark Sanford’s campaign sometime before the 1st Congressional District special election was over. Knowing that she went to college with the guy, and worked for him in his congressional office and later in his Commerce Department, I did not react with shock or horror. At least, not outwardly. I flatter myself that I’m good at the deadpan reaction.

When I ran into her at the benefit for Boston bombing victims Tuesday evening at the Capital City Club, she started telling me about working in the campaign. I asked her to write a guest piece about the experience. She jumped at the opportunity. In fact, she got into it enough that she’s giving it to me in a couple (or maybe even three) installments. This is the first.

So never let it be said that nothing sympathetic to Mark Sanford runs in this bit of the blogosphere. Enjoy Clare’s report:

How I Spent the Final Days of Mark Sanford’s Congressional Campaign

By Clare Morris

I’ve known Mark Sanford since I was 17 years old. We met during Orientation Week for Furman’s Class of ’83.

I’ve always liked Mark – he was an easygoing and fun guy in college.

When he was elected to Congress in the mid-‘90’s, I worked as his press secretary. We kept in touch over the years, and when he became governor of South Carolina, I was the spokesperson for the SC Department of Commerce.

This gives a little context to what I’m about to describe.

I went to Charleston the last few days before the 1st Congressional District special election and volunteered for Mark’s campaign.

When I told people that was what I was planning to do, the answer was pretty much, “Are you crazy???” I was like, “He’s an old friend from college, and I want to be there to support him.”

So, here’s a little timeline of what it was like:


Sunday, May 5th

I wind around East Bay Street in Charleston until I finally find the campaign headquarters. It’s in this small kind of dirty old building across from the Harris Teeter.

I get there and Mark is chatting with a couple who have driven all the way up from Fort Lauderdale to help with his campaign – Laura and Paul. When I noticed that Paul had on a jacket that had a Cato Institute logo on it, I thought, well, this guy is a true believer.

It had been years since Mark and I had seen each other – I’d left Commerce in 2006 to start my own company – and he seemed so tickled to see me. He gave me a big hug, thanked me for coming, introduced me to Paul and Laura, and made me promise that we’d have a “visit.”

What was so interesting about seeing him after all these years is that he seemed so comfortable in his own skin and genuinely happy. You’ve heard in press reports that he’s humbled and appreciative of the support he’s received from former staffers and volunteers, and that’s absolutely how his demeanor seemed.

The campaign headquarters was filled with former staffers (folks I’d worked with back in the mid-‘90’s) and volunteers from all over. The atmosphere was unbridled optimism.

The volunteer coordinator needed us to make calls to get people out to vote and to encourage them to support Mark. The phones were pretty complicated, and the Florida couple and I needed a little orientation to figure out how to work them.

They had phone numbers of likely Mark supporters queued up, and also a script to follow. It was something like this:

“Hi! My name is Clare (no last name) and I’m a friend of Mark Sanford.  I’m just calling to remind you that the special congressional election is coming up on Tuesday. Are you planning to vote?”

At this point, you would document their answer directly into the phone. The next part was:

“Great! Do you think Mark can count on your support?”

Again, you document their answer and thank them for their time.

I have very limited campaign experience. What was really notable about this campaign, however, was that volunteers were instructed to absolutely not say anything bad about the opponent. I was told, “We’re really not into that.”

I made 100 calls that afternoon. It was pretty even between Mark and his opponent. However, one kind of crazy old irate guy said, “If I were you, I wouldn’t say that I’m a friend of Mark Sanford’s!”

I said, “Well, actually, I am. We went to college together.”

He hung up on me.


Monday, May 6th

I purposely wore a dress and heels that day so that I wouldn’t have to hold up campaign signs out by the street.

I was back on phone duty and this time the folks I called could not tell me soon enough that they were voting for Mark and they were taking several of their friends to the polls. They actually interrupted my spiel to tell me that.

Also, interestingly enough, several folks I spoke to said that they were praying for him. One lady actually said that she and her friends were going to hold a prayer vigil for him that night. I made sure to tell him that and he seemed really touched by that.

Not all of the volunteers were human. There was this one lady who dressed up her dachshund and rolled him around in a stroller that had “Mark Sanford for Congress” stickers all over it. She talked to Mark every time he came in the room. I asked him at a volunteer appreciation cookout that night how he knew her, and he said that he didn’t.

At that party, the lady was taking pictures and suddenly put her little dog on my lap. I was sitting by Mark and he started making fun of me. A little while later, she put the dog on his lap. All of a sudden, it wasn’t that funny after all.

More to come…Election Day, the victory party, and meeting Maria.

With the dog...

With the dog…

Jenny wins; Sanford admits to being in contempt

Of his divorce decree, that is:

By BRUCE SMITH — Associated Press

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Newly elected Congressman Mark Sanford and his ex-wife have settled a complaint that said he was at her home without her permission in violation of their divorce agreement….

Under the settlement, Sanford admits he was in contempt of the divorce decree then and on previous occasions. The judge agreed to withhold sentencing Sanford as long as he complies with the provision in their divorce settlement that he not enter his ex-wife’s Sullivans Island, S.C., home without her permission.

Sanford also agreed to pay her $5,000 in fees and court costs…

As to the matter of his showing contempt for the people of the 1st District, and them just eating it up, that’s another story.

He’s all yours, Lowcountry, and welcome to him.

Missing the point about the wicked Lowcountry

Last night before the results were in, a friend shared with me this Facebook update from John Dickerson of CBS and Slate:

If Mark Sanford wins tonight it will mark a real evolution for South Carolina as a state where values voters play a big role. Sanford, Gingrich’s win in the SC GOP primary. This is not the state where George Bush spoke at Bob Jones in 2000.

No, no, no. Apples and oranges. As I responded:

It’s the Lowcountry. Stuff like that never mattered as much in the Lowcountry. Bob Jones is in the part of the state where they think Charlestonians are all heathens.

I could have added, “drinking, swearing, gambling, fornicating heathens,” but it was a text, so I kept it short.

The Calvinist/fundamentalist part of the state, where Bob Jones is, is the Upstate. It’s like confusing Maine and Florida, only on a smaller scale. Charleston is where the hell-raisers live, and let live. It has always been thus.

Mr. Dickerson compounded his error with a piece in Slate this morning headlined, “Paris, South Carolina:”

South Carolina conservatives may still say a candidate’s sins matter, but they aren’t voting that way. In fact, if you weren’t privy to the state’s strong social conservative history, you could almost mistake South Carolinians for city folk—people who vote for experience, policy, and political leanings and show a sophisticate’s relativism toward personal moral failings. These days, South Carolinians seem almost Parisian when they enter the voting booth.

It’s a clever angle. And accurate, in that Charleston is, indeed the Paris of South Carolina. The difference is that South Carolina isn’t France.

It’s true that the values voters don’t have the impact statewide that they did back in the early 90s. The two strains of libertarianism (economic, not cultural) — the Club for Growth types who love Sanford, and the more populist Tea Party types who love Nikki Haley — have crowded them out to a great extent.

But they’re still here. And just because Sanford won in the Lowcountry doesn’t mean their influence isn’t still felt. Maybe he would have won in another part of the state. But winning down there doesn’t prove it.

The Gingrich angle that Dickerson brings up is indeed intriguing. But I don’t think that’s a good example. South Carolinians had a fit and broke with their history of choosing the eventual nominee because Gingrich at that moment was coming across as the guy who most wanted to rip out Barack Obama’s throat with his teeth. It was a weird moment. He appealed to something dark and visceral and atavistic in the SC electorate, something that for me hearkened back to Tillmanism. There was that, and the fact that a lot of establishment Republicans didn’t want Nikki Haley’s candidate to win.

I don’t think the two instances mark a trend away from family values. But yeah, Charleston is Paris if you like…

Well, Sanford has SC to kick around again

The expected end to the special election in the 1st Congressional District has come:

Mark Sanford has won the South Carolina special election in a competitive race for what in normal circumstances is a safe Republican seat.

The former governor beat Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert Busch, for the state’s 1st congressional district.

The AP called the race for Sanford, with the Republican leading Colbert Busch 54 percent 46 percent…

Except, of course, it’s not the end. It’s just the beginning, or rather the resumption. One more thing for all of South Carolina to be repeatedly humiliated over.

Way to go, voters of the 1st District. You do realize that all of us will get the blame for this, right?

Raining in the 1st District


At 12:52 p.m., the SC Democratic Party Tweeted out the above picture, saying,

It’s raining in #SC01 so we need you to get on the call tool NOW!!!

Yeah, I’m not sure what that means. “Call tool” sounds like what someone whose first language is not English would call a telephone, but the Tweet included a link to this.

In any case, I don’t know that this weather means. Normally, a challenger (which is what Elizabeth Colbert Busch is in this case) needs everything to be perfect to turn out her support in order to turn out the entrenched power (which in this case is Mark Sanford, but it would be true of any Republican in this district).

But… there were all those rumblings — speculation, mostly — about normally reliable GOP voters just staying home this time, on account of Sanford fatigue. (Which is why Sanford has been trying to terrify them with his huge photo of Nancy Pelosi.) The rain would give them an excuse not to bother.

I don’t know. My gut says this hurts the Democrat. But I just don’t know. And neither does anyone else. People say all kinds of thing about the effects of whether on an election, but I don’t find it to be a reliable predictor. It just gives people something to yammer about all day while they wait for results.

‘Groundhog Day’ in South Carolina’s 1st District

Our regular Silence, who apparently is way too chipper in the early morning, posted at 7:08 a.m.,

Here it is folks, the big day, the main event! Who will be the champ, and who will be the chump?

To which I responded that most likely, Mark Sanford wins. Again. As he has been expected to do since the beginning, in spite of some polls giving his opponent hope along the way.

But you know, it would be nice to see something different, something new, happen in South Carolina. Getting stuck with Sanford again is SOP here; we expect no better.

I’m reminded of what Bill Murray says at the end of “Groundhog Day,” when a new and different day finally dawns. He notices something that varies from all the previous days, and says, with cautious optimism, “Something is… different.” Andie MacDowell says, “Good or bad?” To which he replies, “Anything different is good.”

Had the film been set in her native South Carolina rather than Pennsylvania, Ms. MacDowell might then have said, “Nothing different ever happens here.” Which would have ruined the movie, but would have been depressingly true. We are famous for our ruts.

I don’t know that Elizabeth Colbert Busch is the electoral equivalent of getting Andie MacDowell in the end. I don’t know enough about her. But I know it would be different. And when the status quo is this well known, different is good.

Here’s hoping for a happy ending in the 1st District. The alternative is another 18 months of Sanford jokes at South Carolina’s expense.

Mark Sanford’s utter contempt for the Republican Party

Mark Sanford on the last night of the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.

Mark Sanford on the last night of the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.

I don’t have much time for blogging today — I was sick all weekend (ran a fever over 100, which for me is high, since I’m normally about 97 degrees) and couldn’t get to some things I wanted to get ahead on, so now I’m way behind.

But since the special election in the 1st Congressional District is tomorrow, and since Mark Sanford is again what he was at the beginning — the front-runner — I thought I’d share an observation.

Over the weekend, in a story about the state Republican Convention Saturday, Andy Shain wrote:

The mixed feelings of party faithful over former Gov. Mark Sanford’s return to politics also were on display.

Sanford did not attend the convention, spending the day campaigning in the Lowcountry ahead of his Tuesday contest against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch in the 1st District congressional special election. However, Sanford’s campaign had a phone bank operating in the coliseum lobby that was sparsely attended, even after a plea for volunteers…

Sanford wasn’t there. No big deal. After all, he’s busy, right? His political comeback is in the balance, and he’s on an upswing, so he just couldn’t take time out for the convention, as much as he wanted to be there, right?

Wrong. Even in the best of circumstances, Mark Sanford would as soon have a root canal as attend a state GOP convention — especially since he already has the party’s nomination, meaning that there’s nothing more the party can do for Mark Sanford.

Mark Sanford’s contempt for the Republican Party is a palpable thing. Back in the days when I was supporting his candidacy for governor, and for perhaps a year or two after, I used to find it an endearing, although somewhat odd, trait. Because, as you know, I hold the parties in contempt myself.

A couple of incidents from that period:

  1. Right after the bitterly-fought primary and runoff against Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler in 2002 — in which what essentially amounted to the party establishment had done everything it could think of to stop Sanford — the party bigwigs staged a big reconciliation event out in front of state party headquarters. Not only were all of Bob Peelers’ key backers there, but even people who usually took little interest in gubernatorial politics, by which I mean Glenn McConnell (who as senator had little time to spare on such lesser offices as governor). It was quite the lovefest. Sanford showed up for it, but when I tried to grab him afterwards to see how he felt about this show of support after the bitter primary, he was gone. I found Jenny, and she urged me to call him on his cell, as he was on the way back to Charleston. So I did, when I got back to the office, and when I asked what he thought of all those people who had so recently opposed him bowing down and offering their wholehearted fealty, he said something like (I don’t have the exact words in front of me now), “Yes, well… I suppose people do those things.” Which sort of communicates the degree to which he didn’t care about those people, but not quite — you had to hear his tone to get the full effect. Wow, I thought. Even though I have no fondness for parties or respect for party loyalty, I was impressed by his insouciance. Those people had done all that for him, had gathered from across the state to show how much they cared, and he really could not give a flip. I tried to think of it in positive terms, but it was weird.
  2. The next incident that stands out most in my mind occurred at the climax of the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York. This is a story I’ve told before. George W. Bush was giving his acceptance speech, and partisan passion in the room was at that fever pitch that it only achieves about once every four years. For people who are into the party, this is the supreme moment, so every square inch of the floor and risers of Madison Square Garden was packed. I was standing in the aisle next to the South Carolina delegation, and had other standing people pressing against me on all sides. Even those who had seats were standing, some of them on their chairs. When he bent over to say something to me, I realized that the person pressing against my left shoulder was Mark Sanford. I forget most of what he said, but I made note of what he said, in that usual bored, lollygaggin’ voice, at the moment when the excitement all around us was at its peak: “I don’t know if you’ve read that book, Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds….” I laughed, and said no, I hadn’t. But the overwhelming impression I had at the moment was that there was one person, among all those thousands, who felt even less connected to the pulsating sense of unity in that enormous room than I did, and that was Mark Sanford.

Oh, a word about why Sanford was standing there in the aisle to begin with. He wasn’t an actual delegate. When I said something about his not having a seat, he indicated — I forget the exact words — that no one had offered him one. After the president’s speech, as things were breaking up, I joshingly asked Speaker David Wilkins why nobody had seen fit to offer their governor a seat, and he suddenly looked very serious, and not a little put-upon. He said he had personally offered the governor his seat, but had been refused.

This was Mark Sanford’s relationship with his party in a nutshell. From the moment he became his party’s nominee, through his entire time in office, he gave loyal, dyed-in-the-wool Republicans, people ready to bend over backwards for their governor, the back of his hand.

Given my own disdain for parties, it took me awhile to connect his lack of caring about other Republicans with what I came to know as his utter lack of concern for anyone other than himself. I didn’t realize what a narcissist Sanford was until June 2009; that came as a shock. Why was it such a shock? Because Mark Sanford was always so different from any other politician I had ever encountered that it was hard to know what to think of his actions.

Once I did, his contempt for his party seemed itself contemptible, and I actually had some sympathy for the party loyalists whom he had repeatedly dissed.

Usually, people who go into politics are to some extent people people. With Sanford, that’s just not the case. He basically has no use for people other than himself, and that included Republicans.

What is bitterly ironic about this is that he is likely to win tomorrow for one reason: That district was drawn to elect a Republican, any Republican, and there are thousands of voters who will pull the lever because Sanford has “Republican” after his name. Because they think he is one of them. When in actuality, he would probably be amused by their assumption, by their unthinking loyalty, if he bothered to care about them at all…

There’s nothing ‘right-wing’ about Mark Sanford

Just saw this fund-raising appeal from the Democrats:

ROLL CALL: Conservatives Buy Airtime for Mark Sanford

If you think Elizabeth Colbert Busch has a clear path to victory on Tuesday, think again.

She’s neck and neck with Mark Sanford — 46-46. And now, right-wing groups are throwing everything they’ve got at keeping this seat in Republican hands.

Brad — We can’t allow Elizabeth to be pummeled like this if we want to win on Tuesday.

There are only 4 days left. Will you dig deep for Elizabeth and Democrats in tough districts like hers?…

… and want to quibble with the wording.

Yeah, I get why the DCCC would want to say “right-wing.” Because it pushes their peeps’ buttons.

But Sanford isn’t “right-wing;” nor are those who tend to flock to his banner. He is libertarian, a classical liberal, which is why, even as his party establishment deserts him, he is backed by the likes of Ron and Rand Paul.

I looked up the group that Roll Call said was backing Sanford. It’s called “Independent Women Voice.” (Note that the Dems did NOT mention the name of the organization, because it might have provoked a positive response in their target audience, which of course is why the group calls itself that.) The organization describes itself this way:

IWV is dedicated to promoting limited government, free markets, and personal responsibility

Note that there’s no mention of traditional values, or a strong defense, or any of the other traits associated with conservatism, much less the “right wing” — only the libertarian values are mentioned.

Push-polling in the 1st District?

Not much time for blogging today, but I thought I’d call attention to the buzz today about a supposed push-poll aimed at smearing Elizabeth Colbert-Busch. Here’s an account from The Atlantic Wire:

ThinkProgress spoke with two women in the state, each of whom said they’d gotten a call from someone claiming to be conducting a poll on next Tuesday’s race. Among the questions that one woman, April Wolford, said she received were the following:

  • What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if I told you she had had an abortion?
  • What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if I told you a judge held her in contempt of court at her divorce proceedings?
  • What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if she had done jail time?

And so on. It’s worth clarifying at this point: There have been no reports that any of these things actually happened to Colbert Busch…

And the HuffPost has pulled together elements from several reports on the subject.

If this is really happening — and one of the nastiest thing about these sleazy devices is that it’s hard to know what’s really happening, and who’s responsible, in time for voters to absorb the truth before the vote — it would be in keeping with a long South Carolina tradition. Just ask John McCain, or Max Heller.

Oh, and in terms of actual polling, there’s this one out there:

A new poll shows the race between Republican Mark Sanford and Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch tightening, with both candidates at 46 percent entering the final days of the 1st Congressional District campaign.

The poll from Red Racing Horses, which bills itself as “a Republican-oriented online community,” also has 7 percent of voters undecided. The margin of error was plus-or-minus 5 percent…

If it’s really neck-and-neck at this point, you’ve got to put your money on Sanford. If you’re putting money on it. Which I wouldn’t recommend. But given the nature of the district, I suspect he has an edge worth several points more than polls measure…

‘Meanwhile, Sanford’s opponent spent the day campaigning elsewhere…’

My headline should seem familiar.

It seems to me that there’s a line like that in most stories about the 1st Congressional District special election. For instance, this is the only mention of her in first 16 paragraphs of the Island Packet story I referred to in my last post:

Meanwhile, his Democratic opponent in the May 7 special election, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, campaigned across Beaufort and Charleston counties where most of the district’s voters live. She attended fundraisers and forums, declaring herself the victor in Monday night’s debate.

That, of course, was the story about Mark Sanford’s endorsements by Rand Paul, Larry Flynt and a website that promotes extramarital affairs.

The pattern for both national and state stories about this race is as follows:

  1. The lede about the latest development or nondevelopment involving Sanford (his asking his ex-wife to manage his campaign, his goofy plywood signs, Jenny accusing him of trespassing, his soulmate popping up at his primary victory party, changing versions of the Super Bowl story, “debating” a picture of Nancy Pelosi, etc.).
  2. A quick mention that his opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, spent the day campaigning elsewhere in the district. Somewhere out of sight and hearing of the press, apparently.
  3. An extensive elaboration on the latest Sanford development or nondevelopment, including a recitation of previous revelations.

You get the impression that if the Democrat weren’t the sister of a national celebrity, she’d hardly ever get a headline of her own.

This underlines, yet again, the point I made in the previous post — that the only way the three-ring circus goes away is if Sanford loses next week. If he wins, this is what we have to get used to.

Larry Flynt endorses ‘America’s great sex pioneer,’ Mark Sanford

Gina Smith really buried the lede in that story.

I read this morning her account of Mark Sanford’s visage being used by a website that promotes extramarital affairs (she also mentioned his endorsement by Rand Paul, which is about as startling as the fact that the Club for Growth still loves him).

That was interesting, but I didn’t get to the jump page. So I missed this news:

Today, the endorsements have been rolling in. The National Republican Congressional Committee has pulled its support for Sanford but, this morning, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., offered his backing, and the conservative group FreedomWorks followed suit this afternoon.

So did Larry Flynt.

The noted porn king, candidate and political agitator released a sarcastic YouTube endorsement of Sanford as “America’s great sex pioneer,” announced a donation of a legal-maximum $2,600 to Sanford’s campaign, and invited Sanford to “meet with me, man to man, for a photo opportunity and to shake my hand in gratitude for my endorsement.”…

Either falsely or earnestly, Flynt praised Sanford for exposing the “sexual hypocrisy of traditional values in America today” – and praised pro-Sanford voters for their willingness to allegedly reject those values in favor of Sanford’s candidacy…

First, I didn’t know Larry Flynt had a sense of irony, much less one that extended to self-deprecation. He sort of has to know he’s a sleazeball, and mock himself for it, in order to mock Sanford.

To be called a “pioneer” by the guy who made his rep publishing pictures too dirty for Penthouse (which made its rep publishing pictures too dirty for Playboy) is indeed a rare honor.

Sanford loyalists — and I know they are out there, such as the guy in the audience who kept going “Whoo!” to every other thing his candidate said in the debate Monday night — will say it is unfair for such distractions as this to prevent people from focusing on their man’s good qualities.

And in one sense it is a distraction. All this focus on Sanford’s continuing relationship with his soulmate from Argentina distracts us from the stark truth that well before he slipped away from his post in June 2009, Mark Sanford had demonstrated amply that he should never again hold public office, by all he had done and all he had failed to do, as congressman and especially as governor.

But in another sense, it’s perfectly relevant. It’s just another foretaste of the mockery to which South Carolina will subject itself if its 1st District voters elect this man again.


That first question was a toughie, if you’re Mark Sanford

Did y’all watch the debate? I did not, in real time, and when I started trying to a little after 8, I could not find any video to connect to. I mean, what century is this anyway?

This morning, I’ve started watching the CSPAN video. Before typing this, all I had watched was the opening question, which immediately put Mark Sanford in a bad spot. He and Elizabeth Colbert Busch were asked, “What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment, and why?”

Ms. Busch went first, and talked about some accomplishments she was proud of from her business career. But the whole time she was talking, I was wondering, what on Earth will Mark Sanford have to boast of?

“Professional accomplishment” implies “something you’ve done outside of politics,” unless you choose to present yourself as a professional politician. I’m vaguely aware that Sanford did something in the private sector, quite briefly, before running for office for the first time two decades ago. He’s certainly not known for anything he did in that distant past. What obscure accomplishment would he extract from his youth to impress us with?

Well, he didn’t even try. He talked politics instead — basically acknowledging that that is his profession. Of course, he’s on extremely shaky ground there, since he’s never accomplished any major goals that he has set out in politics. So he proceeded to cite trying to hold back government spending, year after year, as an accomplishment. He even threw in his most embarrassing policy moment, when he was the only governor in the nation trying to prevent his state from getting stimulus money that South Carolinians would be on the hook for every bit as much as other Americans. The responsible Republican leaders of our state saw to it that he failed in that effort, as in so many of his extreme positions. Yet he cited his having tried as part of his body of professional “accomplishment.”

The closest he came to an accomplishment was claiming credit for having been a member of Congress when the leadership (of which formed no part) and the White House worked together to balance the budget. So basically, he was in town when something good happened.

I can’t really critique Ms. Busch’s answer to that question, because it was all from her experience in the private sector.

If I were with the Sanford campaign, I’d be griping that that lead-off question was grossly unfair to my guy, as there was just no good way for him, being Mark Sanford, to answer it.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten, and I don’t know how much more of it I’ll have time to watch today, although I’m going to listen to some of it at least. I’ll jump back in here with thoughts as they occur to me.

But in the meantime, among those of you who saw it, what did you think?

Is Mark Sanford entitled to equal time on Comedy Central?

I thought this question, posed on Slatest, was intriguing:

As the faux-conservative Colbert Report host, Stephen Colbert has lampooned campaign finance laws and the U.S. electoral system by starting his own super PAC and announcing bids for the presidency and “the president of the United States of South Carolina.” But another Colbert—this one with a hard t at the end—is also vying for the political spotlight: Elizabeth Colbert Busch, Stephen’s older sister, who’s facing off against avid Appalachian Trail hiker and former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford in a May 7 special election for South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District. Colbert has twice devoted show segments to his sister’s campaign, including one endorsing her candidacy, and has mocked Sanford on countless occasions. With the show’s nightly viewership of 1.5 million and the documented “Colbert bump” in a politician’s support after an appearance, is Colbert violating election laws by blending his hosting role with his sister’s campaign?

Probably not. The central law in play is the Federal Communications Commission’s equal-time rule. Beginning with the Radio Act of 1927, which Congress enacted in response to fears of broadcasters’ ability to sway elections by limiting a candidate’s access to the airwaves, radio and television networks have been required to offer equal airtime (or opportunities to purchase advertising at a reduced price) to all candidates if they request it. Exemptions were later added for documentaries, newscasts, news interviews, and on-the-spot news events.

Since it covers news stories and political issues, The Colbert Report would likely fall under the newscast or news interviews exceptions…

Really? I would have thought it was entertainment.

In any case, I’ve always found the equal-time rule sort of hard to follow. And now that we have “news shows” that are entirely satire, how would you go about giving equal time, anyway? And if you gave it, how could you be assured it would be to the advantage of the one demanding it? When everything is dealt with ironically, how do you make sure your equal time is quality time? Make it an infomercial, so you have total control? Maybe. I don’t know. But even that could backfire, as Comedy Central viewers go there for smart-aleck, not for earnest.

What do y’all think?


Sanford’s continuing with the Nancy Pelosi shtick

Sanford cash

You would think that, after standing on a public street pretending to “debate” a life-sized photograph of Nancy Pelosi, Mark Sanford would realize that he had embarrassed himself in three ways:

  1. By making Rep. Pelosi his target, he’s doing exactly the same thing that he’s accusing Elizabeth Colbert Busch of doing — failing to confront his actual opponent. This “run against the national boogeyman (or woman)” shtick is the last resort of the desperate. It cries out that he has nothing relevant to say to the 1st District. It’s like the political equivalent of how the Tsarnaevs learned to be terrorists — they just got it from the Internet. It’s garden-variety, off-the-shelf, inside-the-Beltway partisan nonsense.
  2. By choosing MUSC as his background, he unnecessarily calls attention to the fact that he has always been hostile to the very idea of public research universities in South Carolina. If Mark Sanford had his way, institutions such as MUSC would not exist. It’s just not a good idea, for him, to remind voters of that.
  3. By standing specifically in front of a building named for Dr. James Colbert — the father of his opponent — he not only demonstrates a shocking cluelessness of landmarks in the main city in his district, but underlines the contributions that his opponent’s family have made to the community in which they are so strongly rooted.

After so thoroughly striking out with this shtick yesterday, you’d think Sanford would abandon it. But above you see a picture of him Tweeted by Stacy Jacobson with the ABC affiliate in Charleston. Her explanation of the picture:

Sanford holds up $1,000. Says Pelosi spent $600k to campaign against him

Sheesh. Never mind that, as an image, it evokes the photo that so embarrassed Mitt Romney.

That’s our former governor. When he finds a way to make himself look silly, he shticks with it…

Kathleen Parker writes as though Sanford were toast

The State today ran this column by Kathleen Parker, which doesn’t come right out and say “Mark Sanford’s gonna lose,” but seems to assume that to be the case throughout. Here’s how the piece ends:

Sanford didn’t even have the decency to resign from office but rather finished his term and vanished for a couple of years only to re-emerge in pursuit of a fresh legacy. He recently won the Republican primary for an open congressional seat and faces Elizabeth Colbert Busch (sister of TV’s Stephen Colbert) in a special election May 7.

To many South Carolinians, especially women, Sanford’s candidacy is an embarrassment of Weiner­esque proportions. But if history is any guide, his candidacy is on life support. Not only did his former wife, Jenny Sanford, not stand by her man, she also wrote a book, went on TV and recently took him to court for trespassing. This in the wake of his fiancee showing up at his primary victory party and appearing onstage with him and two of his sons, one of whom had not previously met his future stepmother.

Sanford’s lack of empathy for his family, not to mention his impeachable judgment, should disqualify him from further public service, an opinion apparently shared by the National Republican Congressional Committee, which recently withdrew support for his candidacy.

Where the wife goes, so go the people…

An interesting detail to note is that this piece is several days old. It’s dated for April 19, which was three days before the PPP poll showed Elizabeth Colbert Busch leading by 9 points. So Kathleen was just sort of going on gut on this — assuming that her theory, that if the wife doesn’t forgive the voters won’t, would apply.

I think it’s premature to count Mark Sanford out. That district is so Republican, and he won the crowded GOP primary. The same people who voted for him all those times before seem poised to do it again. Relying on those voters not to show up on election day seems like a thin premise.

I now think he may lose. I’d very much like to see him lose, because it would go a long way toward bolstering my faith in democracy in South Carolina, which frankly has been repeatedly bruised over the last few years. It would show that voters in that district have some sense.

But I’m not counting on it, not on the basis of information currently available to me.

And I don’t think you can predict it based on any generalizations about sex scandals elsewhere in the country. National media (and I know Kathleen isn’t like other national media, since she lives in SC, but the audience she’s writing for is national) keep making the mistake of lumping Sanford in with Weiner and others, as though there were a connection. When there isn’t.

This is related to another fallacy that national media treat as gospel — that you can make generalizations about individual congressional elections based on party. As though a Democratic or Republican victory at one end of the country indicates a trend that will bear out at the other end of the country. Which utterly ignores the fact that every candidate is different, and is running under different conditions, in a different venue with different voters.

And just as with Tolstoy’s observation that “every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” every sex scandal is different. And one involving Mark Sanford is necessarily more different than others, because Mark Sanford is utterly unlike any politician I’ve ever encountered in my long career. The odd ways that he relates, or doesn’t relate, to other human beings (including, and perhaps especially, member of his own party) is just unique. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Therefore the psychology of what motivates people to vote for him is also unique. His political appeal is a strange animal, hard to understand and harder to predict.

So I would not dismiss him yet, as much as I may want to. But to do so, I’d have to be more certain that I am that voters who show up on May 7 in that district will act sensibly, rather than embarrass our state. And there are just too many quirky variables to predict with confidence.

Laurin Manning on Mark ‘Poor Me’ Sanford

The Washington Post‘s “Post Partisan” blog brought my attention to something I had missed — that our own Laurin Manning was back in the SC blogosphere. Jonathan Capehart of the Post quoted what Laurin had to say about Mark Sanford’s ridiculously narcissistic full-page advert in the Charleston paper over the weekend. As Laurin wrote:

On Sunday, just days after the horrific Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent events that left three people dead, hundreds wounded, and a nation in shock — and just days after the explosion of a Texas fertilizer plant that killed thirteen people and injured hundreds more — Mark Sanford bought a full-page newspaper ad in the print version of Charleston’sPost & Courier to tell us just what a bad week *he* had.soapbox

In his 1,265-word, quintessentially Sanfordian screed, the former governor and Republican nominee for South Carolina’s First Congressional District begins, “It’s been a rough week….”

Yep, that sounds like Mark Sanford, all right. The poor guy. It’s a wonder he wasn’t invited to speak at one of the funerals of the Boston bombing victims. He could have really cheered up the mourners by saying, “You think this is bad? Let me tell you about my week…”

Anyway, it’s great to see that Laurin — one of my very first blogging friends — is back on the job after a nearly two-year hiatus. Here’s how she announced her return last month:

It’s been a while, y’all. Almost two years! I stopped writing when I moved to Washington, DC to work at a software company called Salsa Labs and then at a Democratic organization called American Bridge through the 2012 election. Back in South Carolina figuring out what’s next — hopefully something around these parts. Don’t know how much writing I’ll have time to do on here, so I’m not making any promises, but we’ll see…

Well, I hope we will see. Here’s hoping she sticks around longer than she did after her last return. Welcome back, Laurin!