MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (AP) — Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's political comeback already hinged on persuading conservative voters in the state's Lowcountry to forgive him for past infidelity and political mistakes. Now he'll have to do it with his ex-wife accusing him of repeatedly trespassing in her home.
That revelation prompted the National Republican Congressional Committee to pull its support from the campaign Wednesday, a day after The Associated Press obtained court documents detailing the accusations from Sanford's ex-wife, Jenny.
The group, which had conducted polling and provided additional resources to the campaign, was blindsided by the news and said it wouldn't provide more funding or pay for television advertising because officials worried Sanford would have difficulty making inroads with women voters. That blow effectively leaves Sanford on his own with three weeks to go before Election Day.
The latest Federal Election Commission reports still show that Sanford had $272,000 on hand to about $210,000 for Elizabeth Colbert Busch, his opponent in the race for a vacant seat in the state's 1st Congressional District.
"Mark Sanford has proven he knows what it takes to win elections. At this time, the NRCC will not be engaged in this special election," said Andrea Bozek, an NRCC spokeswoman. The decision was first reported by Politico.
Gibbs Knotts, chairman of the political science department at the College of Charleston, said it's not an insurmountable problem if Sanford can stick to his small-government talking points and appeal to the GOP base.
"I don't think this is fatal for Sanford. It's just a bad day for Sanford," Knotts said. "He needs to be out there talking about the size of government, the federal budget deficit and the themes he did very well talking about during the primary."
The NRCC made its announcement just hours after Sanford issued a statement explaining why he was at his wife's home on Feb. 3. Jenny Sanford filed a complaint the next day, saying his visit on that night and several other occasions violated their divorce settlement.
"I did indeed watch the second half of the Super Bowl at the beach house with our 14-year-old son because as a father I didn't think he should watch it alone," Sanford said. "Given she was out of town I tried to reach her beforehand to tell her of the situation that had arisen, and met her at the back steps under the light of my cellphone when she returned and told her what had happened."
She did not immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment on her ex-husband's explanation.
As for Colbert Busch, she has refused to exploit the latest image problem of the man who once was mentioned as a potential presidential contender before his affair with a woman in Argentina and ethics violations left a once-promising career in ruins.