updated 4/25/2013 8:18:40 AM ET 2013-04-25T12:18:40

Trailing Democratic challenger Elizabeth Colbert Busch, former Gov. Mark Sanford tries something new. He sets up a debate with a cardboard cutout of GOP enemy Nancy Pelosi. Yes, things just got weird.

There are less than two weeks before voters in South Carolina’s 1st District head to the polls to decide the Congressional race between Mark Sanford and Elizabeth Colbert Busch, his Democratic challenger. A survey by Public Policy Polling released on Monday showed Sanford trailing Colbert Busch by nine points.

To try changing the dynamics of the race, Sanford wants to debate.  Colbert Busch has agreed to just one debate, instead focusing her campaign on public events.

But Sanford–you may have noticed–has a high tolerance for embarrassment. So on Wednesday morning, Sanford set up shop on a street corner in the district, podiums in tow. No Colbert Busch? No problem. Sanford set up a cardboard cutout of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. A recent Gallup poll showed Pelosi as the least liked leader in Congress. Her negative approval rating is perhaps one reason why she was given the role of Sanford’s cardboard debate partner.

“Since Elizabeth Colbert Busch refuses to articulate her views publicly, we are left to draw inferences for what she stands for on the basis of the groups that have made substantial monetary investments on her behalf,” Sanford said in a press release.

“While Mark Sanford continues his desperate campaign to deceive voters, Elizabeth Colbert Busch is spending her time with real people who support her campaign,” said Colbert Busch campaign spokesman James Smith.

Sanford’s campaign road has been bumpy. His ex-wife, Jenny Sanford, filed a complaint in family court this past February, accusing him of trespassing on her property. Under the stipulations in their divorce agreement, they are not allowed on each other’s property. The National Republican Congressional Committee announced that it would not provide financial backing for Sanford in the Congressional race.

Sanford bought a full page ad in Sunday’s Charleston Post and Courier, acknowledging his “rough week” and giving his own account of what led to Jenny’s Sanford’s trespassing allegations. (The fact that he considered it a rough week for himself–given the Marathon bombings–didn’t improve the public’s perception of him.)

Take a look at the Hardball Sideshow for more on the real Sanford versus cardboard Pelosi.

Video: SC’s Sanford debates cardboard cutout of Nancy Pelosi

  1. Transcript of: SC’s Sanford debates cardboard cutout of Nancy Pelosi

    MATTHEWS: And back to HARDBALL and now to the "Sideshow." When it was discovered that the two suspects in the attacks on the Boston Marathon were from Chechnya , some unexpected confusion ensued. It turns out that some people were mixing up Chechnya with the Czech Republic , you know, where Czechs come from, a vastly different country, almost 2,000 miles away from Chechnya . Well, I have no idea how someone could make that error. But the Czech Republic 's ambassador to these United States stepped in.

    UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Czech Republic is a European country . It's a different thing than Chechnya . Obviously, we have been seeing things on the social media that people are mixing the Czech Republic and Chechnya . I wish to stress that this is the Czech Republic , a country of Central Europe , and a Europe , NATO ally.

    MATTHEWS: Just goes to show, never Google thyself. And take a look at the headline from a Polish news Web site featuring a shot of Sarah Palin . Well, the headline translates to "Let's Burn Prague: Sarah Palin Calls for the Invasion of the Czech Republic ." And before you think the worst, here's the source for that report, The Daily Currant , a satirical news Web site here in the U.S. So , no, Palin didn't say that. But for a brief period, some people in Poland thought she did. Shows what they think of her. Next, parenting tips from President Obama . Here he is with NBC 's Savannah Guthrie on a plan to get his daughters thinking twice before getting any tats.

    BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What we have said to the girls is, if you guys ever decide you're going to get a tattoo, then mommy and me will get the exact same tattoo in the same place. And we will go on YouTube and show it off as a family tattoo. And our thinking is that might dissuade them from thinking that somehow that's a good way to rebel.

    MATTHEWS: Sounds promising. I'm not that~ optimistic. Next, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gets fact-checked after something he said to a 4-year-old at a town hall. Let's look.

    UNIDENTIFIED BOY: What's your favorite TV show ?

    GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: What's my favorite TV show ? OK. I like to watch sports on TV . So that's what I watch most of the time. So how about my favorite station is ESPN ? What's your favorite TV show ?

    UNIDENTIFIED BOY: " Scooby-Doo ."

    CHRISTIE: " Scooby-Doo ."

    CHRISTIE: And how old are you?


    CHRISTIE: Four. Excellent . Well, when I was 4, my favorite show was " Scooby-Doo ," too.

    MATTHEWS: Well, ridiculously, I think, watchdog group PolitiFact did some diligent digging there. Here's Stephen Colbert with the result.

    STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": It turns out Christie was full of Scooby doo -doo.

    COLBERT: And he was exposed by Pulitzer Prize-winning watchdog group PolitiFact , who reported: "Given the governor's birth date and the official premiere date of ' Scooby-Doo, Where Are You ?" Christie would have been 7 years old, not 4, if he had watched the show's first episode."

    COLBERT: Christie was clearly lying about watching " Scooby-Doo " when he was 4.

    COLBERT: And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those meddling kids.

    MATTHEWS: I will give Christie far more than a free pass for that one. Finally, as I said yesterday, this congressional race down in South Carolina between Mark Sanford and his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Colbert Busch , is a piece of work. The action today, Sanford took to the streets to protest his opponent's decision to only participate in one debate by putting on a debate of his own. Sanford stood on a street corner debating, if you will, this cardboard cutout of Nancy Pelosi .

    In response to the one-sided face-off, a spokesman for Colbert Busch said: " Elizabeth Colbert Busch is spending her time with real people who support her campaign." Well, a recent PPP poll showed Sanford trailing Colbert Busch by 9 percentage points. This is not serious. Up next, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Jeb Bush hit the lecture circuit in Dallas . They're going to do it tomorrow. Are we watching a preview of coming attractions politically? There they are. You're watching HARDBALL , the place for politics.


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