Congressional candidate and former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) held a mock debate with a cardboard cutout of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Wednesday morning, on a sidewalk outside Medical University of South Carolina. Sanford said the Pelosi cutout was a stand-in for his opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, because she is avoiding public appearances.
"My opponent continues to run a stealth campaign, avoiding public appearances and refusing to commit to televised forums for the benefit of 1st district voters," Sanford said in a press release. "Since Elizabeth Colbert Busch refuses to articulate her views publicly, we are left to draw inferences for what she stands for on the basis of the groups that have made substantial monetary investments on her behalf."
The two will meet Monday for a debate at The Citadel ahead of the May 7 special election for the U.S. House seat. Colbert Busch declined to debate at Medical University, citing a "tight schedule," and her campaign slammed Sanford's "debate."
"While Mark Sanford continues his desperate campaign to deceive voters, Elizabeth Colbert Busch is spending her time with real people who support her campaign," spokesman James Smith said Wednesday in a statement sent to media. "Today alone, she’s meeting with a group of Republicans for Elizabeth Colbert Busch and a rally at Burke High School. She doesn’t have to resort to phony cardboard cutouts to talk with the people of South Carolina."
Sanford's "debate" was reminiscent of Clint Eastwood's 2012 Republican National Convention speech to an empty chair representing President Barack Obama, and it marked another bizarre turn for the former governor, who is trying to come back after admitting to a 2009 extramarital affair to Argentinian Maria Chapur.
Sanford's ex-wife has accused him of trespassing on her property, in violation of their divorce agreement. On Tuesday, Sanford said he had gone to his ex-wife's house to watch the Super Bowl with one son while the other was also home doing homework. He previously said that he went to his ex-wife's house on Feb. 3, because he "didn’t think he should watch [the Super Bowl] alone."
On Sunday, Sanford ran a 1,200-word ad in the Charleston Post & Courier lamenting his "rough week," comparing his campaign to the Alamo and giving out his personal cell phone number.
Voters in South Carolina's 1st District, which went for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney by 18 percentage points in 2012, seem to be losing faith in Sanford. Colbert Busch has a 9-point lead among likely voters, according to a Public Policy Polling survey released Monday. The National Republican Congressional Committee is not spending money on the race.
UPDATE: 5:45 p.m. -- Rep. Pelosi's office responded to the "debate" between Mark Sanford and a cardboard picture of the House minority leader. "The only people who took this seriously were the people at Kinko's," said Pelosi press secretary Evangeline George.