The "Colbert Bump" seems to be in effect in South Carolina's First District, where Stephen Colbert's sister, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, has a slight lead over both former Gov. Mark Sanford and former Charleston County Councilor Curtis Bostic, according to a poll conducted last week for her campaign.
Colbert Busch, the Democratic nominee in the special election contest, leads Sanford within the poll's margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.4 percentage points, 47 percent to 44 percent. Her lead over Bostic falls just outside the margin of error, 48 percent to 39 percent. The poll was conducted by the Democratic firm Lake Research Partners. The survey of 500 likely voters was conducted between March 25 and 27 and represents the only live-caller polling to be released publicly since the March 19 primary.
Bostic and Sanford will compete in a primary runoff on Tuesday to determine the Republican nominee, with the special election to be held five weeks later, on May 7. Though the district is heavily Republican -- Mitt Romney carried it by 18 points last fall -- Colbert Busch has touted her moderate appeal and business experience, as she hopes to become the first Democrat to represent the state's Lowcountry since then-Rep. Mendel Jackson Davis left office in 1981.
A release also touted Colbert Busch's two-to-one favorability rating, with 48 percent of likely special-election voters viewing her favorably, compared to 24 percent who have an unfavorable opinion of her. Pollster Celinda Lake said that contrasts with Sanford's image, which was net-negative: 43 percent of likely voters have a favorable opinion of him, while 49 percent view him unfavorably.
Colbert Busch has faced only token opposition so far, while Republicans have had their hands full whittling down a sixteen-candidate field. That has allowed her to spread a largely uncontested, positive vision of herself as a non-partisan local job-creator in two television ads so far. She's had some luck with fundraising as well, bringing in nearly as much as Sanford in the pre-primary period and outraising him among district residents -- albeit, with help from her famous younger brother. Once Tuesday's runoff results are finalized, attention and scrutiny will shift to Colbert Busch for the first time. Still, special elections are notoriously unpredictable and with Sanford's likely win on Tuesday, Democrats are confident that his baggage will weigh him in the general election.
-- Polling editor Steven Shepard contributed to this post.
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