Feb. 9, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Rothenberg: Colbert's Sister an Underdog, but Worth Watching

Sanford is expected to finish first in the crowded primary but be forced into a runoff. “It’s doubtful that Sanford is the second choice of many primary voters,” said one Republican with extensive knowledge of the state’s politics who is skeptical that the former governor can win a runoff.

Even if Sanford does survive the runoff, the climb wouldn’t be easy for Colbert Busch. As one Democratic observer told me, Sanford as the GOP nominee guarantees a competitive race, but “it isn’t clear that she can beat him.”

Colbert Busch has already been endorsed by a number of Democratic officeholders, including South Carolina Rep. James E. Clyburn, Georgia Rep. John Lewis and 10-term Charleston Mayor Joe Riley Jr., as well as by the South Carolina AFL-CIO.

She needs these endorsements if only to make sure that she disposes of African-American Ben Frasier, the party’s 2010 nominee, in the special-election primary. But those endorsements also make it easier for the GOP to make the special election into a partisan fight.

A recent article in Bluffton Today may help Republican operatives build their case.

The article said Colbert Busch “is pro-choice and supports same-sex marriage,” which is not necessarily fatal in Charleston. But it went on to raise a red flag about the likely Democratic nominee: “Busch, who wasn’t able to answer some questions and admitted policy heft isn’t her strong suit, struck an optimistic chord.”

Optimism is fine, but it usually isn’t enough if you either can’t talk about policy or prefer to avoid taking positions on issues. This should be especially concerning for Democrats given Colbert Busch’s shaky performance on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” last week.

Colbert Busch needs a perfect campaign and plenty of luck to have a chance to win the seat. That’s not impossible, but it also makes her a clear underdog in the special election.

Stuart Rothenberg (@stupolitics) is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report (rothenbergpoliticalreport.com).

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