PPP's first look at the special election in South Carolina's 1st Congressional District finds a toss up race. Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch leads Republican Mark Sanford 47-45 and ties Curtis Bostic at 43.
This is a Republican leaning district and Barack Obama's approval rating in it is only 41% with 57% of voters disapproving of him. But Democrats are far more unified than the Republicans are. Busch is winning 87-89% of the Democratic vote while Sanford (76%) and Bostic (72%) are both earning less than 80% of the GOP vote. Busch is also up by 16-18 points with independent voters.
Sanford remains a strong favorite for the Republican nomination heading into next week's runoff. He leads Bostic 53/40. The horse race numbers closely mirror his favorability with GOP voters- 55% see him positively to 40% with a negative opinion. If there's a silver lining for Bostic it's that he still has a name recognition deficit- 77% of voters have heard of him to 95% for Sanford- and among voters who are familiar with him he trails Sanford only 49/46. That suggests some possibility of closing as voters focus in on the choice between the two in the final weeks, but Bostic may just not have enough time.
The big question for Sanford is whether the Republicans who don't like him- 39% of them- will be willing to vote for him anyway in the general election. The undecideds in a Sanford/Busch race voted for Mitt Romney by a 77/12 margin in 2012 so they're an extremely GOP leaning group but because of their distaste for Sanford there's a chance that they'll vote for Busch or more likely just stay at home if Sanford is the candidate. If Sanford can up his share of the Republican vote in the general to 85% once he's the nominee that would probably be enough to put him over the top.
Stephen Colbert's favorability rating of 36% in the district is higher than Sanford's 34%, and only 27% of voters have an unfavorable opinion of him. But the really effective surrogate in the district would be Jenny Sanford, who has a 55/18 favorability rating and is seen positively by majorities of Republicans (57/15), independents (54/16), and Democrats (53/24) alike. Also helpful to Sanford's cause would be Tim Scott who has a 53/26 approval, making him much more popular in the district than Nikki Haley (41/45) and Lindsey Graham (40/44) are.
There's a long way to go but for now this race looks like a toss up, and a lot will be determined by how much Republicans can unify after next week's runoff.
Full results here