Is the GOP's Last, Best Hope Against Mark Sanford Blowing It?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 27 2013 4:11 PM

Is the GOP's Last, Best Hope Against Mark Sanford Blowing It?

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Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford in 2009.

Photo by Davis Turner/Getty Images

Before Mark Sanford won the first runoff berth in South Carolina's special congressional election, Republicans told themselves a story. Sure, yes, Sanford could make the runoff, but any Republican could beat him. When Rep. Mick Mulvaney endorsed a friend and state senator over Sanford, he told me of the regular Tea Party Americans he was talking to in the state who said they'd oppose Sanford in the runoff as long as the opponent wasn't too bad.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Mulvaney's candidate didn't make the runoff. Curtis Bostic, a former Charleston city councilman, did. He's not a kook, he's just not who the party wanted, really. And I see no rush to his side, any real effort to stop a Sanford win. Eight days after the primary, Bostic has been endorsed by Pat Boone and Rick Santorum. And sure, Santorum came a weak third in the 2012 Republican primary in this state, but he certainly has the credibility to lecture Sanford about marriage.

Speaking to a gaggle of reporters after the event, Santorum suggested that Sanford’s personal history could make a difference in the runoff.
“Everybody knows his past, and they are going to factor that in — the same way they are going to have to factor Curtis’s background in,” he said.
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Staying genteel about Sanford's problems would work if Bostic had a killer campaign. There's no evidence that he does. On Tuesday, new Sanford strategist Wesley Donehue (who'd criticized Sanford in the past, like other new Sanford advisers) got into a Twitter spat with new Bostic strategist Ali Akbar. Akbar is a social media whiz who, while a "young, punk kid" in Texas, committed fraud. It attracted the attention of Patch's Shawn Drury.

David O'Connell, who manages Bostic's campaign, told Patch via email: "This person does not speak for the Bostic campaign and any reports to the contrary are erroneous. If he has a contract, it's not with me or with anyone else from our campaign."
Akbar said he has never met Bostic, but calls into the district showed that spending was the No. 1 issue among voters.

Does a spat like this spill over into a campaign? Probably not; who cares whether a candidate's Twitter sherpa is squeaky clean? But we see the upstart Bostic campaign struggling to get the larger conservative movement to notice its existence, trumpeting pretty random endorsements, and failing to coordinate the right arm with the left arm. All this while Sanford leads in the primary polls, 53-42.

Correction, March 27, 2013: This post originally misspelled Wesley Donehue's last name.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.