In Which Mark Sanford Visits an Artisan Cafe

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 6 2013 3:54 PM

Riding in Cars With Mark Sanford

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MT. PLEASANT, S.C.—I woke up on the early side today to catch Mark Sanford at his first campaign event of the day—a 7:30 drop-in at an artisan coffee shop. National Review's Betsy Woodruff was the only other reporter there. No cameras.

"The TV people don't wake up until 10:00 a.m.," joked Sanford.

Sanford ambled around a classy strip mall, in and out of stores, and for our troubles he invited his small print retinue along for a car ride. The neighborhood up the road, I'On, was a lovely planned community of the kind you can't build anymore.

"It's new urbanism, walkable," he said. "You have to worry about turning radiuses of fire trucks."

This got Woodruff asking about a campaign dynamic that's truly pleased Sanford: His ability to look like the scrappy underdog. Elizabeth Colbert Busch has a campaign bus, one that, yesterday, parked in a Charleston neighborhood as the candidate, reporters and staff canvassed. Hard rain beat down the entire time as ECB talked to four voters identified as strong supporters. So didn't Sanford have a bus?

"When I was governor, you know, I hate[d] the way most governors would travel with a pretty good-sized entourage," he said. "It destroys what I think is really, really important, which is one-on-one direct communication. You get some guy standing behind you with an earpiece and dark sunglasses, people are not going to up to you as to what they like, don't like, what they think. I said, 'Look, in the history of this republic, no governor has ever gotten shot. You're not here to protect me. You're here simply as a communication link.'"

Sanford let reporters tag along to the second (of 11) scheduled event, a meet-up with former Gov. James Edwards and defeated primary foe Rep. Chip Limehouse. Edwards, an octogenarian with an iron handshake, summed up Sanford's anti-Nancy Pelosi message in helpfully apocalyptic terms.

"It's a battle for the soul of America," said Edwards. "If we don't get every vote we can out, Obama will be a dictator. He's practically a dictator now."

Limehouse agreed. "What we're talking about is whether we want socialism to prevail or whether we want to have capitalism," he said. "I don't think capitalism is a bad word."

Everything Colbert Busch does is meant to counteract this meme. Invitations to her events are invitations from "Businesswoman Elizabeth Colbert Busch." The bus, whatever its turning radius, is painted with the human-sized slogan "Elizabeth Means Business!" Her appearance today in a black suburban stretch between Summerville and Charleston happened at a barbershop, where she was shown around by the family owners.

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David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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