by Sam Spence
With a week to go before ex-Gov. Mark Sanford and ex-County Councilman Curtis Bostic face off in the 1st District Republican primary runoff, a hypothetical head-to-head general election poll shows Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch keeping pace with both of her prospective GOP opponents.
A new survey conducted over the weekend by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling (PPP) shows Colbert Busch leading Sanford by a margin of 47% to 45%, and tying Curtis Bostic with 43%.
The poll shows stronger overall support from the Democratic base for Colbert Busch than Republicans are showing their candidates, with Busch earning up to 89% of Democratic votes and Sanford and Bostic earning 76% and 72%, respectively. PPP estimates that if Sanford can prevail in the April 2 runoff and shore up his GOP support to 85%, he would be well-positioned to win on May 7.
The race might appear to be a dead heat at this point, but PPP's poll examined several factors that could swing the race in the closing weeks. Undecided voters surveyed broke for Romney 77/12 in the 2012 presidential election, showing a strongly Republican-leaning landscape for the candidates to court before election day. But a 39% disapproval rating for Sanford among Republicans, combined with 15% of Republicans polled indicating support for Colbert Busch over Sanford could indicate an opening for the Democrat to seize swing votes. Sanford's name recognition is also nearly saturated across those polled, 95% compared to 77% for Bostic, meaning that there may be some ground for Bostic to make significant gains with unengaged voters.
In polling potential endorsements in the race, PPP showed across-the-board support for Jenny Sanford, earning a 55% approval rating with high marks from Democratic, Republican, and Independent/other voters. Former 1st District Rep. Tim Scott also showed strong overall support at 53%, but mostly from the 82% of Republicans who indicated a positive view of now-Sen. Scott.
The phone poll questioned 1,175 likely voters made up of 77% self-identified Republicans, 3% Democrats, and 20% Independent/other.