Though oddsmakers in South Carolina generally gave Sanford, the veteran politician, the slight win in the debate, the lingering line is Colbert Busch "pressing the button to remind people why they don't like" Sanford, Professor Swers adds. "She managed to tie his lack of fiscal responsibility to the elephant in the room, his having an affair while in office and using taxpayer money to support it, which is both a violation of fiscal conservative principles that Republicans like and a violation of family values that Republicans tend to admire. Both of those things in one sentence – you can't get better than that for her."
To be sure, this special election to replace Rep. Tim Scott (R), who has filled the seat vacated by Sen. Jim DeMint, shows how far Sanford has come since crying at a press conference upon returning from Argentina in 2009, and later paying a $70,000 fine for ethics violations – the largest such fine ever levied in the Palmetto State. In late March, Sanford finished atop a 16-candidate Republican primary, then won the ensuing runoff against former Charleston County Council chairman Curtis Bostic.
But the Republican National Congressional Committee withdrew its support of Sanford earlier this month after his ex-wife filed a trespassing charge against him for violating a restraining order. Sanford took out a full-page ad explaining that he was simply visiting the house to watch the Super Bowl with his son, but the charges – which will be heard in court two days after the election – once again focused attention on Sanford's decisionmaking.