From the moment she announced her special-election campaign, Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch has been viewed as something of a novelty candidate.
That’s the downside of being the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert.
The upside, of course, is that her brother is probably going to help her raise lots of money at consecutive fundraisers next weekend and by mentioning her campaign on his Comedy Central television show.
And despite many people dismissing her chances in a pretty conservative South Carolina congressional district, nobody should count her out completely.
The 1st Congressional District, formerly held by Tim Scott, R-S.C., who was recently appointed to fill a vacant Senate seat, went overwhelmingly for Mitt Romney last year, 58 percent to 40 percent. It also gave Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a big win in 2008, 56 percent to 42 percent.
Although that suggests a Republican will be favored, there are some factors that could well make Colbert Busch, director of business development for an environmental research institute at Clemson University, a competitive candidate.
Typically candidates of the minority party in such districts are unable to raise enough money to compete, but that shouldn’t be a problem for Colbert Busch. She’s also locking down the support of organized labor and was endorsed Saturday by House Minority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C.
The electorate in special elections is notoriously hard to predict and will be far different than it would be on a normal election day.
Colbert Busch is one of two Democrats running in the party’s primary for the seat; the Republican primary has attracted 16 hopefuls, including Mark Sanford, the former governor whose political career was tarnished by his affair with a woman in Argentina.
Although he is considered a frontrunner for the seat, Sanford may not be the GOP’s best option. A poll from Democratic automated pollster Public Policy Polling in December showed his favorable rating at just 30 percent statewide, with 53 percent viewing him unfavorably. Sanford represented the district before he was governor, so voters there might be more forgiving than the rest of the state. He has also built inroads over the years with black voters, who comprise 20 percent of the district.
Sanford said when he launched his campaign that his favorable rating in the district was higher than his unfavorable rating among Republicans, but it’s not clear whether that’s the case among all voters.
Stephen Colbert, who is scheduled to host a fundraiser for his sister Friday in New York and attend a private fundraiser for her Saturday in Charleston, told the Associated Press that the race is about his sister, not him.
“I want people to know this is her own thing. It’s not me doing anything,” he said.
Colbert Busch should at least have the funds to compete, and her brother could have a lot of power in helping build a movement around her candidacy.