Fresh from his stunning victory in Tuesday’s special election to represent South Carolina’s First Congressional District, Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) is poised to emerge as a thorn in the side to the members of the Washington Republican establishment who abandoned him.
Sanford easily defeated Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, 54% to 45%. His victory came despite a very public disavowal in April of his candidacy by the National Republican Congressional Committee (the NRCC), the arm of the national Republican political establishment whose purported purpose is to ensure that Republican candidates win election to the House of Representatives over their Democratic opponents.
Shortly after he won the April 2 primary and the Republican nomination, the NRCC issued a statement designed to publicly embarrass Sanford and wash their hands of his candidacy. “Mark Sanford has proven he knows what it takes to win elections, ” the statement read. It concluded with this verbal punch thrown at their own party’s candidate: “At this time, the NRCC will not be engaged in this special election.”
At his victory celebration, Sanford told his supporters, “I am one imperfect man saved by God’s grace.” Wednesday morning on NBC’s Today show he said that “his record as a watchdog for taxpayers was more important than his personal redemption story,” according to the AP.
As the victor in the Republican primary, Sanford was the party’s official standard bearer. His entire campaign was based on what presumably is the GOP position on deficits, spending, and taxes. Yet because of the tabloid controversies surrounding his admittedly messy personal life during his second term as Governor of South Carolina, the NRCC repudiated its own mission and abandoned him in the general election.
The Tea Party Express, in contrast, publicly endorsed him the week before the election. Amy Kremer, Chairman of the Tea Party Express, said “While Elizabeth Colbert Busch attempts to portray herself as a moderate who wants to rein in spending and give lip-service to attacking Obamacare, we know this is not the case. As the old saying goes ‘you are who you surround yourself with.’ In the case of Colbert Busch, that is Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Big Labor, and progressive Super PACs. We need leaders like Governor Mark Sanford in office if we are ever going to grow our economy and end the reckless spending and debt that plagues Washington.”
Even more significantly, local tea party groups and activists, most of whom supported Bostic in the primary, showed extraordinary loyalty to the Republican party’s nominee by working tirelessly in the trenches for Sanford’s victory in the general election.
This type of mature political support for a candidate who was not their first choice belies the Washington Republican establishment characterization of the Tea Party as undisciplined. It is the NRCC that emerges as the fickle undisciplined player in this election.
Once again, the Tea Party picked a winner.
In contrast, the NRCC’s public disavowal of the party’s duly elected nominee cast doubt on the organization’s effectiveness and integrity of purpose. What is the point of the NRCC, many wondered, if it won’t vigorously support and defend its properly selected candidates who articulate the party’s core positions?
An experienced Republican political operative, a former NRCC staffer, told Breitbart News “as I thought about the NRCC bailing on him, I got madder and madder. I remember the times when we had to back Christopher Shays–not because we liked him or because we agreed with him–but because he was a Republican and that was our job to back the Republican nominee and win seats. Not discern who were acceptable to us. If they had a shot to win, we were there to help. “
The Republican operative continued, “now a days the nation’s Republican establishment seems to believe they are the arbiters or who deserves to win and who doesn’t. Screw that. Do your job,” he said.
He concluded, saying “all this makes me so happy that Boehner et al now have to work with this guy and this guy gets a pin and access to the press.”
Amy Kremer of the Tea Party Express told Breitbart News in an exclusive statement that “I am thrilled that Tea Party Express was able to stand with and support Gov Mark Sanford in his election to Congress. I knew he had the momentum and there was an enormous amount of energy on the ground in South Carolina. The grassroots rallied around the Governor and pushed him over the finish line.”
Kremer highlighted the failures of the NRCC as well. “I am disappointed that the NRCC abandoned this race, but again, it shows how powerful the grassroots are when they rally around a candidate,” she said. “This race,” she concluded, “is the beginning of 2014 and the establishment better get ready! We are not slowing down and will be electing fiscal conservatives.”
Debbie Jones, secretary of the Mount Pleasant, South Carolina 9-12 group in the First Congressional District, organized a forum on behalf of about 40 Tea Party, 9-12, and grassroots groups in the district, attended by the 16 Republican primary candidates.
She told Breitbart News that Bostic, who lost to Sanford in the runoff, was well thought of by Tea Partiers, but was unable to overcome low name recognition. “Mark Sanford had such name recognition and such a stellar voting record everyone felt like he was the man to beat. Bostic had a lot of ground to cover. We know he knows the Constitution, we felt like he would be the good Christian man.”
Jones stated that door-to-door get-out-the-vote efforts conducted on an ad hoc basis by local Tea Party groups and activists played a significant role in Sanford’s victory. Freedomworks, she said, provided about 10,000 door hangers comparing Sanford and his Democratic opponent, and Jones personally knocked on 200 doors in her neighborhood telling her neighbors of her support for Sanford and dropping off literature.
Jones was uncertain of the number of doors Tea Partiers knocked on in support of Sanford’s candidacy in the weeks prior to his special election victory, but it appears that the inventory of door hangers was entirely depleted.