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WATCH: Mark Sanford debates a cardboard cutout of Nancy Pelosi

Paging Clint Eastwood

Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) has been having a rough few weeks in his campaign to reclaim his old House seat.

His ex-wife sued him for trespassing; national Republicans dropped their support for his campaign; and a poll found him trailing his Democratic challenger by a robust 9-point margin despite the race being in a reliably Republican district. 

So how did the Sanford campaign respond to that adversity? By having the candidate debate a cardboard cutout of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a move seemingly ripped from the political playbook of Clint Eastwood, who famously delivered a rambling address at the Republican National Convention to an empty chair meant to represent President Obama.

In a press event Wednesday, Sanford accused his opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, of refusing to debate him publicly and thus running a "stealth campaign." As a last resort, he said, he'd decided to instead debate "Pelosi." 

"Since Elizabeth won't debate, I'm allowed to debate Nancy," he said, before posing a question to the cardboard cutout about a National Labor Relations Board lawsuit that sought to block Boeing from building a new plant in South Carolina. Republicans claimed the lawsuit was politically motivated and would have denied the state much-needed jobs.

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