How did Mark Sanford win? Political logic dictates that the personally issues of a former governor who disappeared from office, revealed an affair, got censured, divorced, and paid the largest ethics fine in South Carolina history would have enough personal issues to sink any campaign.
Mark Sanford strategy was to completely ignore those issues and focus the voters’ attention on a more distant enemy, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who has a 24% approval rating in the district.
Sanford went on the offensive, painting Elizabeth Colbert Busch as a tool of Nancy Pelosi. Sometimes these attempts appeared farcical, such as when he debated a cardboard cutout of Pelosi, but they clearly resonated with the Republican voters of the 1st South Carolina.
The South Carolia 1st Congressional District has a Cook Partisian Value Index of R+11, which is higher then the state's Cook PVI of +8.
Sanford gave the Republicans something to vote against despite his personal issues. And it paid off, with Sanford winning all five counties in the South Carolina 1st Congressional.