Mark Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina running for Congress in the special election in that state’s first congressional district, spoke to NRO’s Jim Geraghty Wednesday afternoon.
JIM GERAGHTY: The big debate was Monday night. What’s your sense of the state of the race after that debate — apparently the only debate you two will have in this campaign?
MARK SANFORD: I think it’s really unfortunate that it will be the only debate. We pushed for a month to have debates. Whether your perspective is liberal or conservative, one of the things that has held us together as Americans is this notion of sitting at the table and debating and having a conversation about ideas. That process of conversation is really the foundation of coming up with solutions that ultimately can better people’s lives and solve problems.
The idea that there would be a campaign run in the 1st congressional district that is reliant on a lot of money from out-of-state interest groups — in this case left-leaning Democratic interest groups — while at the same time skipping out on debates doesn’t serve this district well. Nonetheless, that’s where we’ve been.
Democratic groups, in total, have put more than a million dollars into this race. Pelosi’s PAC put in $370,000, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put in $200,000, and that is where we are. But as people have come to learn more about what Elizabeth Colbert Busch stands for, things have been trending in our direction. We’ll see.
GERAGHTY: We’ll get the official spending numbers in the near future, but what’s your sense of how badly you’re being outspent? I’ve heard some people say anecdotally they’re seeing four or five ads for Colbert Busch for every one ad for you.
SANFORD: That’s correct; it’s been a four- or five-to-one ratio — which is not what you want in the world of politics.
People are scratching their heads and saying, “Wait a minute, if the Democratic party is willing to put this kind of money into this race, why do they want this seat so badly?” . . . What’s going on here is much larger than the first congressional district. This is the first congressional election since Obama was reelected president of the United States. He has said that he wants to take the Congress in 2014 to ensure his legacy. The reason they’re pouring so much money into this race is that they believe that if they can win here, they can argue to the political-investor community that they can win the other 15 seats that they need to take back the House. There is much more in play than actually meets the eye.
GERAGHTY: The supporters of your runoff-primary rival, Curtis Bostic, are a group of several thousand Republicans who have had the chance to vote for you twice in recent months and who have chosen someone else twice. These are voters who presumably would prefer a conservative candidate to a liberal candidate but who may have some disagreements with you. What’s your approach to winning over these voters?
SANFORD: I’d say my approach is to win them over one by one. I spend a lot of time going out and doing traditional retail politics. We just came out of Hubee D’s, a chicken-finger place west of Ashley. I talk to folks literally from all walks of life. I don’t think there’s any magic formula for reaching those folks, but we’re certainly beginning that process.
Keep in mind, though, Colbert Busch herself said at the debate that she was pro-choice. I don’t think that fits in in any way with those Bostic supporters’ beliefs, either on choice or on a whole range of other issues. Colbert Busch has been largely undefined: She was unwilling to debate for the entire month of the general election, and this is the first change in that. If you’re not certain where someone is, folks will sometimes give you the benefit of the doubt, but that life-focused community of Bostic supporters, I think, were probably paying attention to what she said in the debate. It will travel out anecdotally.