But he returns to the U.S. House with the knowing assent of the electorate.
The disgraced former congressman and governor would not have been our first choice to replace South Carolina Rep. Tim Scott, who is now a U.S. senator. Even leaving aside Mr. Sanford’s personal peccadilloes – isn’t that what Democrats told us to do in the Clinton years? – his bizarre disappearance from the state while governor, and his having lied about being on the Appalachian Trail when he was really stealing away to his mistress in Argentina, was an infidelity against the people of South Carolina.
But the Republican’s relatively breezy win in Tuesday’s special election over Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch is a remarkable statement – probably several of them, actually.
It may say that notoriety – whether for good or ill – is a huge advantage. “I don’t care what they say as long as they talk about me,” is the old Hollywood axiom.
Indeed, Reader’s Digest this week announced the 100 “most trusted” people in America – and most of the top 10, including No. 1 Tom Hanks, are from Hollywood.
Sanford’s win no doubt also says that many voters have forgiven him – and that’s certainly their prerogative, though they are hereby waiving any right to complain about any Democratic sex scandals.
Colbert Busch’s loss also has to be a stinging personal rebuke. Even trading on her celebrity as the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert – whose name ranks just under Stephen King’s in a Google Search – Colbert Busch, who never quite defined her political persuasion, was, ultimately, a horrible candidate incapable of taking down a seriously wounded opponent.
This, too, is utterly jaw-dropping: Mark Sanford won despite the fact that the National Republican Congressional Committee withdrew its support of him last month after his ex-wife charged he’d trespassed in her home. Republicans were basically ceding the seat to Democrats, who made an all-out attempt to help Colbert Busch – at the highest levels of the national party.
Some say that may have only antagonized voters in the mostly conservative district.
Most of all, the election outcome likely is a powerful statement by South Carolina voters – that, with America’s freedoms, finances and standing in the world at severe risk, we just can’t afford to give Democrats any more power in Washington.
On that, they’d be absolutely right.