Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mark Sanford Wins, Pelosi and Obama Lose

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Mark Sanford Wins, Pelosi and Obama Lose

It would be a major mistake to put American troops in Syria.

Mark Sanford won a special election in Charleston, South Carolina last night.

Equally important, Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama lost a special election in South Carolina last night.

It was an election in which Sanford was supposedly ten points behind the Democratic Nominee, Elizabeth Colbert Busch (Stephen Colbert's sister), just a week ago.

It was an election in which Sanford's personal problems had turned him into an underdog in a district which gave Romney an 18 point margin.

It was an election in which support for Sanford collapsed and the National Republican Congressional Committee pulled its support after it was revealed Sanford had to go to court to face a trespassing charge from his former wife.

It was an election in which the Democrats smelled blood and poured well over a million dollars into the race.

What happened and what does it mean for future elections?

1. The district is very conservative and Sanford managed to turn it into a race between himself and the Pelosi-Obama ticket represented by a local democrat. His opponent became invisible and the election was effectively nationalized. When I was in South Carolina last week I kept saying, "I would vote for someone to help John Boehner and against someone who is going to help Pelosi and Obama." Mark understood that model and drove it home. At one point he debated a standup cutout of Pelosi on a street corner. The news media ridiculed him but every time they mentioned it they were bringing Pelosi into the race. The earned media was beating the paid media.

2. The very scale of national Democratic spending and fundraisers in Washington helped convince the voters that the Democrat was not a local candidate but merely a stand in for Pelosi and Obama. She might have done better with less national money.

3. The Democrat refused to state a clear position on gun control and on Obamacare. A very effective campaign by Independent Women's Voice emphasizing the issue of Obamacare seemed to move a lot of votes. You can see their analysis here.

4. In addition, Colbert Busch essentially adopted the Obama-Pelosi positions on gay marriage and immigration. Perhaps most damaging, she was embraced by the unions and took tens of thousands of dollars in union contributions (including the union which filed the high profile NLRB complaint against the Boeing plant in South Carolina). She was also endorsed by Congressman Clyburn as "a voice for working families," and she was on the ballot for the Working Families Party in addition to being the Democrats' nominee. These were likely interpreted as code for "union".

5. Sanford was just a much better and harder working candidate. He had carried the district five times in the past, knows how to campaign, likes campaigning and understood he could only overcome his past personal mistakes by meeting thousands of people face to face and letting them judge him after talking with him. His opponent ran a controlled, consultant dominated, hidden campaign of very limited appearances.

6. When people learned Sanford's side of the trespassing story they were much more inclined to give him a break. He had gone to his former wife's home to watch the Super Bowl with his younger son. It may have violated their agreement but a lot of people knew someone who had been in a bitter divorce and they could cut some slack for a father who wanted to be with his son for a big sporting event. This story might have defeated Sanford if it had come out three days before the election but when voters had enough time to think it through, it lost most of its bite.

If Democrats had won this Deep South seat they would have been shouting from the rooftops. Instead they spent a lot of money with nothing to show for it.

Now they and the Republicans have to turn to Massachusetts.

The Republican candidate is Gabriel Gomez, a former Navy SEAL, venture capitalist and upset winner of the primary who has suddenly emerged as a serious contender.

Long term Congressman Ed Markey who was presumed the automatic winner in the general election has suddenly found himself in a 44-40 race with Gomez according to a public poll last week.

Markey clearly is rattled and his first attack is guaranteed to backfire. He has an ad which shows Gomez' picture and Bin Laden's.

Why a liberal anti-war Democrat would want to attack a Navy SEAL with that kind of over the top ad is beyond comprehension.

This promises to be a very interesting race.

Your Friend,

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