When Republican Mark Sanford won Tuesday’s special election in South Carolina’s first Congressional District, there may not have been a bigger loser than the National Republican Congressional Committee, a group that misjudged the race, retreated, and publicly announced their withdrawal to hurt Sanford three weeks ago when they thought wrongly calculated he was going to lose.
“Congratulations to Mark Sanford for winning tonight’s special election,” NRCC Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) said in a statement. “These results demonstrate just how devastating the policies of Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi are for House Democrats in 2014.”
He continued, “Democrats spent more than $1 million trying to elect a candidate who was backed by the Democrat machine, but at the end of the day, running on the Obama-Pelosi ticket was just too toxic for Elizabeth Colbert Busch.”
This was way too litte, way too late.
Too bad that when Democrats were spending away trying to defeat Sanford to get a jumpstart on 2014, the NRCC, which exists to elect Republicans to the House, did not help Sanford in the most crucial weeks of the race, leaving Sanford to fend for himself against a liberal media and financial onslaught.
Walden’s statement focused on Pelosi and Obama, and that was all he–and the NRCC–had to say three weeks ago. Sanford won the race in part because voters in his district still distrust the liberal policies of Obama and Pelosi and Sanford drew a challenger who had more name identification than retail political skills.
Instead, the NRCC withdrew all of their financial support for Sanford after trespassing allegations against Sanford came to light. And the rubbed salt in the wound by making a big deal about it by announcing it to the world so media organizations could pile on and try to create momentum for Colbert Busch that ended up never being there.
Perhaps adding insult to injury, it was revealed on Wednesday that Sanford has agreed to pay legal fees to his ex-wife and will not even appear in court for the those charges.
Three weeks ago, Politico concluded that the NRCC figured Sanford had “no plausible path to victory” and decided “not to spned more money on Sanford’s behalf ahead of the May 7 special election.”
Andrea Bozek, an NRCC spokesperson told the publication, “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.”
Fearful of the bad press Sanford may bring or irritated by the prospect of a fiscal conservative challenging the House GOP establishment, the NRCC publicly announced its decision to abandon Sanford at the very moment national Democrats began donating in earnest to Colbert Busch’s campaign.
Democrats, as Sanford noted on “Breitbart News Sunday,” wanted to use the race to attract political investors to donate to candidates for the 2014 cycle. The NRCC was hoping a Sanford loss would prove to its donors that it was capable enough to properly gauge races, candidates and districts.
The NRCC could not have failed in more spectacular fashion, and Colbert Busch and the NRCC seemed to have read the same erroneous polls and been advised by the same consultants, for both thought Colbert Busch could and would defeat Sanford by default.
The NRCC misjudged Sanford as a candidate, underestimating his strengths as a retail politician.
They misread the conservative-leaning district that favored Mitt Romney over Obama by nearly 18 points.
And they did not accurately gauge how out of touch of a candidate Colbert Busch was and how terrible she was at retail politics.
And in so doing, the NRCC showed it was unworthy of the trust of potential donors in the future.
In a Washington culture in which Representatives want to hold “pen and pad” briefings to tout even the smallest of victories for bragging rights so more money can flow into coffers, the NRCC would have, at worst, stayed silent or not announced they were pulling out of the Sanford race if they had properly assessed his chances and knew the district’s voters.
But they did not, nor did they seem to want to fight for Sanford when every Republican vote is important as the House takes up important issues ranging from online sales taxes to dismantling Obamacare.
Now, Sanford does not owe the Republican establishment anything.
The former Congressman and governor arrives in Washington again as even more of an outsider, and he can put his anti-establishment brand of fiscal conservatism on steroids without ever having to think he owes the Republican establishment anything.