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The Daily Rundown
updated 4/26/2013 5:19:49 PM ET 2013-04-26T21:19:49

Mark Sanford's campaign is pushing back against national Democrats--releasing screenshots of out-of-state numbers he says a Democratic super PAC prompted to call him.

As former Gov. Mark Sanford finds himself losing ground in his campaign for a special election in South Carolina’s 1st District, he’s identified a new opponent–House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

With Republicans running away from him, Sanford made the bizarre move of appearing with a cardboard cutout this week to “debate” Pelosi–arguing that his actual May 7 opponent, Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, had agreed to only one debate.

That wasn’t the only strange move.The AP reported that his ex-wife, Jenny, had accused him of trespassing earlier this year, and national GOP groups quickly distanced themselves from Sanford. When Sanford was governor in 2009, he disappeared from the state for several days, only to later reveal he was having an affair in Argentina. Sanford and the state’s first lady, Jenny Sanford, divorced, and he’s now engaged to the Argentine woman.

Sanford took out a full-page ad Sunday in the Charleston Post & Courier to tell his side of the trespassing story, also publishing his personal cell phone number for voters to call.

But the Democratic House Majority PAC took that invitation to heart. The group has been running ads against Sanford to help Colbert Busch in the district, and in a fundraising appeal also included Sanford’s personal number.

Sanford, none too happy about the out-of-state calls he then received, decided to fight back, and his campaign released screenshots of some of the non-South Carolina numbers who had dialed him.

“It is clear that Pelosi and Friends expect something in return for their extensive investment and their efforts to personally run a race against me,” Sanford said in a statement releasing the phone numbers.

But Republicans are cringing at this as another example Sanford’s lost his way and aren’t optimistic about his chances.

“[Sanford] spent the entire campaign trying to put his past behind him, and saying that… my mistakes were over and I’ve grown,” AP’s National Political Editor Liz Sidoti said on Friday’s Daily Rundown. “So the news of the trespassing allegations, I think, really caused him to free fall.”

The special election should have been an easy one even with Sanford on the ballot. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the  Charleston-based district by 18 points in 2012.

But recent polling has shown a much closer race. A survey this week from automated Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling showed Colbert Busch with a nine point lead.

Still, national Democrats privately don’t believe the margin is that significant and both sides  expect the race to be much closer than Sanford’s bad press would make it seem.

Sanford did get an endorsement this week from former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), whose impassioned limited-government base could well boost Sanford’s fundraising at a critical time.

In just filed Federal Election Commission finance reports, the Democrat has out-raised Sanford by a nearly two-to-one margin over the past two months. Sanford still has the narrow cash-on-hand edge, $284,000 still in the bank to Colbert Busch’s $254,000.

Sanford will finally get his wish on Monday night–he’ll faceoff with Colbert Busch herself–in person, not a cutout. We’ll have more on that in Tuesday’s edition of The Daily Rundown.

Video: Mark Sanford’s campaign spiral

  1. Closed captioning of: Mark Sanford’s campaign spiral

    >>> let's bring back the gaggle, daniella gibbs leger, liz sidoti, brad todd. the story we haven't covered is the daily disintegration of mark sanford 's career. he's debating cardboard cutouts, but not of his opponent, but of nancy pelosi . meanwhile, he's -- new stories about what was he doing, trespassing on his ex-wife's yard.

    >> i think that's really when you started to see the trickle, trickle come out on just all this stuff. and total damage control moment for him. i mean, what he didn't -- he spent the entire campaign trying to put his past behind him and saying that, you know, my mistakes and all were over and i've grown and this kind of stuff. so the news of the trespassing allegations, i think, really caused him to free fall.

    >> brad, is there any regret among house republicans that they didn't actively find somebody else to stop?

    >> this is a district that mitt romney won by 18 points. and he won the state of south carolina by ten points. it's a republican district. and republican voters decide who their nominees are. and south carolina republicans were going to pick this nominee, no matter what. he's the nominee --

    >> so you don't think there's anything the national party could have done to realize they had a nightmare on their hands?

    >> the national party trying to rig a local election is one of the most impossible things you can do.

    >> well, we just had a whole segment about that. it's fair enough. so elizabeth cullbert bush, you know, very methodically ran this campaign. and yet you talk to democrats and they sit there and say, you know, we still only have a 50/50 chance of winning.

    >> it's because romney won it by 18 points in a very republican district. the fact that it's even even right now is amazing and goes to show how much sanford has fallen. she's playing it smart and keeping her head down.

    >> this feels like scott brown , martha coakley , it's a unique situation, one time, one period they win, then reality sits in, a real republican candidate will come in and she'll lose. hey, you do work for rick scott . rather run against charlie chris or bill nelson .

    >> i think for the heart and soul --

    >> your shameless plug. liz sidoti?

    >> my dad, running for city council in kent, ohio, in the primary may 7th .

    >> wow.

    >> folks should go out and vote my for my dad.

    >> that is shameless! always vote for dad.

    >> a great plug for my colleagues. you guys are doing great work.

    >> there's a reason i was plugging a little bit on bill nelson , he'll be on with my friend, chris jansing , in the next hour. check back after the show. we'll detail some of the stranger twists and turns of that mark sanford campaign. it has been a wild week. that's it for edition. have a great weekend. bye-bye.

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