The Cycle
updated 4/4/2013 2:21:41 PM ET 2013-04-04T18:21:41

Will South Carolina's women voters forgive Sanford for cheating on his wife? They may be waiting to hear what his ex-wife does--or doesn't--say about the race.

From the Appalachian trail to the campaign trail, former Governor Mark Sanford is back on the grid. After defeating Curtis Bostic in the GOP primary runoff on Tuesday, 57% to 43%, Sanford should be the favorite to win the vacated congressional seat in South Carolina first district. The district has become heavily Republican.

But what really are Sanford’s chances to beating his Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Colbert-Bush? “South Carolina, especially the evangelical community, is filled with Christians who believe in the act of redemption,” South Carolina native and MSNBC contributor Jimmy Williams said. “They believe that if the sinner admits his or her sins and is forthright about them, in fact you should be forgiven. That is very much a tenor that runs through most of the churches in the state.”

While he may be forgiven by the Christians in the community, what about women voters who may identify with the wife he cheated on? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the first district is made up of 51.4% of women. These women “run the state for all intents and purposes,” Williams said, and they may not think highly of Mark Sanford. One woman in particular who could make or break Sanford’s campaign is Jenny Sanford, his former wife. “In a way, her silence would speak volumes even if she doesn’t endorse either side in the race,” Krystal said on Wednesday’s show.

Video: What’s next in the crazy comeback story of Mark Sanford?

  1. Closed captioning of: What’s next in the crazy comeback story of Mark Sanford?

    >>> with what started as a dear, dear friend from argentina. simply thank the voters. this has been an amazing journey and while god may be a god of second chances, at times voters are a little bit less forgiving.

    >> forgiving they were last night from the appalachian trail to the campaign trail, former governor mark sanford defeated his opponent in the gop primary run-off tuesday putting him in the driver's seat to win what has been now a vacated congressional seat in south carolina 's district . his opponent in the mai 7th election will be elizabeth colbert bush. this morning, the former governor answered the question he's sure to hear throughout this campaign.

    >> why did you choose to put yourself through this and your kids as well?

    >> you do soul searching and you have a ping-pong match in your gut for a couple of weeks and you are fearful and you are afraid. one of the chief things i had to do before i made that decision was to sit down indeed with the boy and say, guys, if you don't want me to do this, i'm not doing it. but ultimately, all of them said, dad, you have to do this. you've long cared about this. and off to the races we went.

    >> joining us is south carolina 's finest, jimmy williams . how are you?

    >> i'm pretty good.

    >> warm, warm start. i was speaking to someone at the dccc. they said, this is great for p.r. but they have a zombie adulterer walking around and yet when i pressed this person a little bit saying, are you going to win this seat? they said, look, this is not friendly territory for democrats. can you unpack that contrast a little bit for us?

    >> well, the person that you spoke with the dccc is exactly right, it's not a democratic friendly district . it was even -- it was more of a democratic friendly district before the lines were redrawn in 2010 . they took away myrtle beach which is the hottest, most fastest-growing section or part of south carolina , filling up with northeasterners who are retiring, more socially liberal , fiscally conservative . they brought it all the way down to hilton head and buford, a more socially conservative area. so the district is in fact far more republican than it was before. but, it is also filled with women . over half the district is women in south carolina . i have to tell you, you have a lot of women down there, republican women who look at mark sanford and think he's a piece of -- well, i just won't say the word. it's not polite to say so. there is an opening here for colbert -bush. what most people don't know about her is she actually gave him money when she ran for governor. imagine if she gets up in the debate and says, mark, i gave you money and you violated my faith and my trust and you violated your wife's trust and the women of south carolina . and that could hit home very heavily with women in the first district .

    >> it's interesting that you're going to link those -- what her losing faith in him and jenny losing faith in him. and i think this is an example of karl rove being right that a lot of time gop primary voters cannot pick good candidates. but i'm also curious for you to speak to what this says or the message we should take about the culture of south carolina which we think of as a very conservative state saying, okay, the republican voters saying, let's take a chance on this man who cheated on his lovely professional wife.

    >> well, listen, south carolina , especially the evangelical community, is filled with christians who believe in the act of redemption. they believe that if the sinner admits his or her sin, you should be forgiven. that is very much a tenor that runs through most of the churches in the state. however, that is not all of that district . you have a lot of sort of art si types, downtown in charleston, south carolina , that look at him with massive scorn. they think he's a carpet bagger , per se . they don't like him. and they sympathize immensely with jenny sanford . what i'm going to do is watching jenny sanford immensely. you just put up the clip about the boys and sanford having his fiancee on the stage. something most people don't know. his children did not know she was going to be on that stage. and apparently mrs. sanford is beyond upset about this and is really just champing at the bit to go after him on this. the question is, will she stay silent? will she endorse? i don't think she'll endorse colbert -bush. but will she say, mark did that to his boys, to my children, that's not okay. if that's the case, that's going to be very important to watch. he could lose because of that.

    >> in a way, her silence would speak volumes in and of itself even if she doesn't endorse either side in the race. jimmy, an obvious question, but how important is colbert -bush's gender in this race? how important is it that she's a woman running against this failed man?

    >> massive. did you ever see the movie " steel magnolias "? tells you everything you need to know . this is a simple thing. women run the state for all intents and purposes. they run the households, they run soccer camps, et cetera , et cetera . and women pay attention to this kind of thing. i have to be honest with you. most businessmen, the republican establishment, even the men in south carolina , are upset with sanford for trying to make this comeback. they have to make a decision, do they want to get him off their radar screen out of the political radar screen forever? if they do, they'll vote colbert -bush in and go after her in 2014 . if they do that, that is the end of mark sanford 's political career and it gets him out of their hair. at the same time, what if they don't want a democrat at all? the question becomes, it is a selfish choice for south carolina 's republicans. but not for the democrats. the democrats would love to have colbert -bush in.

    >> i'm certainly not going to disagree that conservatives are a little less forgiving of adultery than liberals seem to be. where is nikki haley in all of this, jimmy?

    >> who?

    >> he was her mentor. she's governor now in part because he left office. this seat is open because she took tim scott out of it when jim demint retired to go to heritage. and she's been almost silent on his run. what do you think that has to do with?

    >> well, i think nikki haley has massive problems all on her own that are completely separated from mark sanford . yes, he did groom her.

    >> like what?

    >> her popularity in the state is at like 39% -- no, it's 43% in the latest winthrop university poll. barack obama 's outpolling her by seven points in the state of south carolina . that should tell you everything you need to know about nikki haley . she's wildly unpopular with most republicans. the speaker of the house , not a liberal, a very conservative speaker of the south carolina house, deplores her, hates her. they have an ongoing public battle going on.

    >> what does this have to do with mark sanford , jimmy?

    >> you asked me about nikki haley . my point is haley's going to have no control and impetus on this. she's worried completely about her own race this fall.

    >> okay.

    >> jimmy williams , thanks.

    >> all right, guys. have a great day.

    >> thank you.

    >>> i hear when you leave "the cycle" for the day, you get to bump your favorite tunes. can we get some reggae going, please?

    >>> straight ahead, solving world peace is no game. or is


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