Now that Mark Sanford has won his old seat in the House by beating Elizabeth Colbert Busch in a South Carolina special election, the GOP should be thrilled, right?
Not so much. It's not that House Republicans would rather deal with a Democrat; it's just that the GOP establishment and Sanford have had a rocky relationship.
In April, the National Republican Congressional Committee cut Sanford's campaign funding under the pretense that Sanford was so politically savvy that he didn't need the NRCC's money (which, it turns out, is true). To most observers, the fact that it happened right after Sanford was accused of trespassing in his ex-wife's home — the same wife he cheated on with Argentine former TV reporter Maria Belen Chapur — indicated that the NRCC viewed Sanford as a political liability.
Sanford's subsequent victory inspired this bit of gloating from Sen. Tom Davis (R-S.C.) on Twitter:
SC 1st congressional district is sending a fiscally conservative, libertarian-leaning Republican to DC.Sorry, NRCC.We won anyway.
— Tom Davis (@senatortomdavis) May 8, 2013
After Sanford's win, the NRCC released a statement that was light on compliments for Sanford and heavy on Nancy Pelosi references:
Congratulations to Mark Sanford for winning tonight's special election. These results demonstrate just how devastating the policies of Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi are for House Democrats in 2014. 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. [NRCC]
Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, pointed out on Twitter that their reunion might be a little awkward:
So what do you think Sanford is going to say to the NRCC when he arrives in DC? #justcallmecongressman
— Michael Steele (@Steele_Michael) May 8, 2013
Things might also get uncomfortable when House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) swears Sanford into Congress. According to The Hill, Boehner responded to a question about whether House Republicans would embrace Sanford with "open arms" by avoiding any specific references to Sanford, instead stressing how Congressmen don't get to pick their colleagues:
The voters of the first district of South Carolina will make their decision. Just like any one of us or any of the 435 members of Congress, we don't get to choose who they are. Their electorate gets to decide, so we'll see what the outcome is today. [The Hill]
Aaron Blake at The Washington Post notes that Boehner wasn't the only Republican giving Sanford the Voldemort treatment by refusing to say his name. Watch Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) awkwardly dance around the issue earlier this week:
Sanford, for his part, seems to be taking a gracious approach to rejoining his GOP colleagues, telling CBS This Morning, "Yesterday is yesterday and today is today, and I look forward to working with them."