Mark Sanford Catches Lucky Break, Advances to Runoff

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Sanford's a happy man.
Sanford's a happy man.

Well, Mark Sanford has one big advantage heading into the runoff to secure the GOP nomination for South Carolina’s First Congressional district. He’ll be able to vote for himself.

His opponent, in all likelihood, will be Curtis Bostic, an attorney and former Charleston County councilman who doesn’t actually live in the district. But since federal law allows for that sort of thing, Bostic was able to run for the seat anyway. And when the polls closed on Tuesday night, Bostic had a slim hold on second place — which, since Sanford finished first but failed to capture 50 percent of the vote in the 16-candidate field, means he’ll compete in the runoff on April 2.

Bostic’s lead over the third-place finisher Larry Grooms was slim enough, however, that there’s almost certain to be a state-mandated recount, which will give Sanford yet another advantage heading into the runoff: He’ll have a head start in campaigning of several days while state officials determine who his official opponent will be.

It’s yet another instance of the charmed political life Sanford has been leading of late. First, of course, there’s what Sanford describes as the “rather miraculous chain of events” that opened up the first district’s seat. Then there was his ex-wife Jenny’s decision to take a pass on the race. And now Sanford has the GOP state essentially to himself until the recount is completed.

What’s more, regardless of how the recount unfolds, neither Bostic nor Grooms would seem to pose much of a challenge. The greatest threat to Sanford (besides Jenny) was always that one of his deep-pocketed opponents — namely Teddy Turner, Chip Limehouse, or John Kuhn — would make it to the runoff and pour a considerable portion of his personal fortune into a scorched-earth ad campaign against the philandering ex-governor. While it’s likely Bostic or Grooms will try to make Sanford's affair an issue in the coming weeks, it’s doubtful either one has the financial resources to make it stick. And then, all Sanford would have standing between him and a return to Congress and full political redemption is Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the Democratic nominee and the sister of Comedy Central funnyman Stephen Colbert. In other words, not much.

It’s little wonder that a couple weeks ago, after my profile of Sanford came out, a plugged-in South Carolina politico, who learned the tricks of the trade at the knee of the late Lee Atwater, called me with a bold prediction: Sanford would not just win this Congressional race, this operative told me, he’d successfully primary Lindsey Graham in next year’s Senate campaign and then run for the White House. It sounded crazy at the time, but now I’m starting to wonder.