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How Elizabeth Colbert Busch is beating Mark Sanford in the polls
The former governor of South Carolina could use some good press right about now
Elizabeth Colbert Busch chats with a nursing home resident in Charleston, S.C., April 4.
Elizabeth Colbert Busch chats with a nursing home resident in Charleston, S.C., April 4. AP Photo/Bruce Smith
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t looks like Elizabeth Colbert Busch isn't just a novelty act after all. In the latest survey from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling, Colbert Busch, sister to Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert, has jumped to a 9-point lead over opponent Mark Sanford in their race to represent South Carolina's 1st Congressional District in the House.

That puts her in prime position to win a May 7 special election. How did she jump so far ahead when the two were neck-and-neck only a few weeks ago?

Mark Sanford, the disgraced former governor of the state, weirded voters out by allegedly trespassing on his ex-wife's home. Jenny Sanford — the ex-wife Mark Sanford left for his Argentine mistress — accused him of violating their divorce agreement by sneaking around the back door of her home without her permission.

Sanford protested that he was just trying to watch the Super Bowl with his son while he thought she was out of town. But the National Republican Congressional Committee ran out of patience, pulled its funding, and now Sanford finds himself trailing in the polls.

When asked whether the trespassing incident gave them doubts about Sanford's fitness for office, 51 percent of respondents said yes. As Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, put it: "The only question is whether an extremely unpopular Sanford can find some way to make voters like her even less than him in the next two weeks."

Here are the favorability ratings for the all the players involved:

Elizabeth Colbert Busch: 56 percent
Mark Sanford: 38 percent
Stephen Colbert: 39 percent
Jenny Sanford: 49 percent

In response to his falling poll numbers, Sanford has been calling Colbert Busch out for not agreeing to more debates. Gina Smith of The State writes that many take that as a sign that "Colbert Busch’s campaign is trying to shield its novice candidate from the politically seasoned Sanford, who has never lost an election and has a tried-and-true debate style." The two currently have one debate scheduled for April 29.

Meanwhile, Colbert Busch, who is running as an independent, has announced the formation of Republicans for Elizabeth Colbert Busch, hoping to capitalize, no doubt, on the 19 percent of Republicans who said they would vote for her. 

Keith Wagstaff is a staff writer at TheWeek.com covering politics and current events. He has previously written for such publications as TIME, Details, VICE, and the Village Voice.

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