Mark Sanford won the special election in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District Tuesday night. Democrats really thought they could win this seat, going so far as to outspend Sanford.
But it was not in the cards.
Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, their preferred candidate, was a terrible candidate in a heavily Republican district.
In 2009 and early 2010, the Democrats won a series of special elections and trumpeted that voters were embracing Barack Obama. They went on to get spanked by the voters in the 2010 general election. Neither side should read more into this special election than there is.
What is there is the simple fact that, despite what the national media would have voters believe, there are still many parts of the country that do not like liberals.
Just as a Republican could never win Nancy Pelosi’s district, Nancy Pelosi helped Mark Sanford rally conservatives to his side in a very Republican district.
Elizabeth Colbert-Busch showed her shallowness on a number of issues, including not recognizing what “Toomey-Manchin” is in a very Second Amendment state. (If Ms. Colbert-Busch is reading this, that would be the gun control measure that failed in the United States Senate)
Consequently, she opted out of most debate opportunities. Instead of debating her, Mark Sanford toured the district with a life-sized cutout of Nancy Pelosi. It worked.
Sanford, for all his personal faults, is a master of retail politics. He opted for large, wooden, spray-painted campaign signs put in the front windows of local shops and the side of roads.
He toured the district aggressively while the Democrat held meet-and-greets with rich donors.
He ate a lot of barbecue.
He shook a lot of hands.
He spent time one on one with voters at their doorsteps.
He let those who had issues with him address them on their front porch to his face.
On Election Day, Mark Sanford voted and made almost a dozen campaign stops. Elizabeth Colbert-Busch voted and disappeared.
The pace was consistent throughout the special election. Even with news about Mark Sanford getting in trouble with his ex-wife, Colbert-Busch did not hustle on the ground, just expecting voters to embrace her.
In the end, Republicans found a mugshot of her arrest during a messy divorce. The Democrats were caught off-guard and did not respond.
The irony now is that Democrats are left to say Mark Sanford’s victory is a loss for women. These very same Democrats are putting up a man, Vincent Sheheen, to run against South Carolina’s female Governor, Nikki Haley.
Democrats can claim the GOP is hypocritical for voting for a guy like Mark Sanford while claiming to be for family values.
Between Bill Clinton and Kermit Gosnell, no one would ever accuse the Democrats of being for family values. They will also accuse the GOP of selling out its fiscal values by supporting a guy like Sanford who, while being paid by taxpayers, went to Argentina to see his mistress.
But the lesson of South Carolina’s special election Tuesday night is actually simpler than all that — some areas of the country just hate liberals.
The Democrats may have yellow dog Democrats who’d rather vote for a yellow dog than a Republican, but the Republicans have Sanford Republicans. They’d rather Mark Sanford, warts and all, than an elitist liberal whose greatest claim to fame is her brother Stephen.
Now the real fun begins.
Mark Sanford is no fan of Republican leaders in Congress. They yanked their money from his race, choosing to let him fend for himself.
On Election Night, the National Republican Congressional Committee, in charge of helping Republican candidates, mentioned Mark Sanford once and Nancy Pelosi twice in its press release on the race.
They opposed Sanford, a strident fiscal conservative, in the primary and did not help him against the Democrats.
This should be fun to watch.
Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor. He is founder/editor of The Resurgent. His new book is "Before You Wake: Life Lessons From a Father to His Children”. Follow him on Twitter @EWErickson.