If there was one question begging to be asked just prior to Tuesday's special election in South Carolina's 1st Congressional District, voters in that super conservative area answered loud and clear.
The question: Do we want a former governor whose political career might be mired just below the home environs of a mudcat after a confessed international affair and a messy divorce, or should we give the job to a (gasp) Democrat?
By a 54 to 45 margin, the firsters shouted, "Give us the other-woman-lovin', wife-dumpin' ethics violatin' hiker guy over a Nancy Pelosi/Harry Reid/Barack Obama disciple anytime."
Mark Sanford's return to what had been his old political stomping grounds surely has Democrats in both Congress and South Carolina wondering what the heck they have to do to win in a winnable race. First, Gamecock Donkeys, pick a candidate who can compete, pick real time issues and don't hide that candidate behind a stone wall.
The D choice was Elizabeth Colbert Busch, whose primary point of recognition was her brother, Comedy Channel's Stephen Colbert of the quasi-political Colbert Report. After Tuesday, we know who in the family has the highest ratings.
No mention has been made of Colbert Busch's prior political experience; apparently there was none. From her job as Director of Business Development at Clemson University's Restoration Institute, she entered and won the Democratic primary. Winning the nomination was both the high and low points of her initial candidatorial career.
Practically from the get-go, Colbert Busch turned over management of her campaign to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. That translated to contributed dollars while Sanford managed to lose any influx of outside dollars from national Republican organizations when he allegedly trespassed on his former wife's property and she conveniently blew the whistle on him deep into the campaign.
Perhaps the biggest mistake Colbert Busch made was avoiding the very public eye that exists during a campaign of any kind, especially a race with national seats at stake. She made few public appearances outside her comfort zone, avoided all but one offer to debate Sanford, dodged most questions on specific issues and lent her name to a very negative campaign.
Sanford's campaign was no gentleman's affair (sorry) either. But it did, obviously play well in a congressional district which gave presidential loser Mitt Romney an 18-point win over Obama last year. The Sanford strategy: tie Colbert Busch to Pelosi on every issue. In fact, Sanford the hiker debated a cardboard cutout of Pelosi standing in for C. Busch.
One political observer believes that little bit of campaigning accomplished two things: (1) Colbert Busch became the uber-liberal enemy, and (2) people watching the "debate" believed Pelosi had actually developed a personality.
Lessons, if any, Democrats learned from this campaign could make some sort of difference in the mid-terms a year from now. The most obvious should be that depending on political experts throned in Washington, D.C. just may not be the best strategy. We doubt that a DCCC-hired strategist knows more about Berkeley and Dorchester counties in South Carolina than someone who has at least seen the landscape.
Another item: Somebody needs to consider election propensities in 435 districts and treat each in something other than a cookie-cutter campaign manner. As shown earlier this week, Democrats are not beloved in South Carolina's 1st District. Neither are they in our own 4th of Louisiana. It takes a very special candidate with very specific ideas targeting issues important to voters in each district to be a trend breaker.
Somehow, neither Democrats nor Republicans seem to grasp the unique identity of each district. In far too many cases, both sides believe super aggressive, attack and blame campaigns are the best campaigns. The standard modis operandi puts negative over issue oriented just about every time. Maybe, like juicy gossip, we great unwashed just can't get enough.
On a national scale, if down-and-dirty does it, yokels in the hinterland must like it. Judging from elections since we initiated our Republican form of government, those experts just may be right.
Anyway, it will be interesting to see if Sanford's hike to the hallowed halls of Congress winds along the Appalachian Trail and through Argentina. His new fiancé (the Argentina connection) shouldn't worry, unless he disappears again. If he starts along the Natchez Trace and suddenly appears in Brazil, a red flag may be in order.