National Republicans are pulling the plug on Mark Sanford’s suddenly besieged congressional campaign, POLITICO has learned — a potentially fatal blow to the former South Carolina governor’s dramatic comeback bid. Blindsided by news that Sanford’s ex-wife has accused him of trespassing and concluding he has no plausible path to victory, the National Republican Congressional Committee has decided not to spend more money on Sanford’s behalf ahead of the May 7 special election.
“Mark Sanford has proven he knows what it takes to win elections. At this time, the NRCC will not be engaged in this special election,” said Andrea Bozek, an NRCC spokeswoman.
Sanford is facing Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, a Clemson University administrator and sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, in a race that has grabbed the national spotlight.
The NRCC’s move comes hours after Tuesday night’s report by the Associated Press that Sanford’s ex-wife, Jenny Sanford, filed a court complaint accusing him of trespassing at her home in early February – which would be a violation of the terms of their divorce agreement.
Republicans said they were caught off guard by news of Jenny Sanford’s complaint. They worry other damaging revelations about Mark Sanford’s personal life that they aren’t aware of could come out in the coming weeks.
The NRCC has spent a nominal amount on the race on polling and other activities. But officials determined that devoting potentially millions more — which was under discussion — isn’t worth it.
“This is an unfortunate situation but this is what happens when candidates aren’t honest and withhold information,” said one GOP operative. (Also on POLITICO: Ex-wife claims Sanford trespassed)
Sanford’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sanford’s political career was derailed four years ago after he admitted having an affair with an Argentine woman, and now he is seeking the House seat he held for three terms in the late 1990s. The district heavily favors Republicans, so a win by Colbert Busch would be a major upset.
The former governor’s personal life has taken center stage in the race. Sanford, who spent eight years as governor and six years in Congress and for a time had been seen as a serious potential presidential candidate, has crisscrossed the Charleston-area district apologizing to voters and casting himself as a figure of repentance and redemption. (Also on POLITICO: Sanford: I entered Jenny's home to watch football)
Since securing the GOP nomination two weeks ago, Sanford has painted Colbert Busch as a liberal who is out of step with the 1st Congressional District. He has hammered Colbert Busch for accepting donations from organized labor and for supporting President Barack Obama’s health care bill.