You may have heard that Mark Sanford had a dramatic win in the May 7th special Congressional election in South Carolina's 1st District, winning by roughly 54% to Elizabeth Colbert Busch's 45%.
What you may not know is that Independent Women's Voice was the only independent expenditure of a significant size on the winning side of the ledger.
Two weeks ago, after the National Republican Congressional Committee had decided to drop out, none of the big groups had come in to help, and PPP polling showed Sanford dramatically down by 9 points., we decided to test if it would be possible to move the needle enough to matter in a race that all thought all but over. We may be small, but we didn’t see how we couldn’t at least try.
After 4 days of testing to 10,000 likely voting Republican and Independent households, we discovered that the biggest swing issue was ObamaCare repeal. The contrast between the two candidates on this issue was clear, as Mark Sanford had signed the ObamaCare Repeal Pledge and his opponent had not.
After the message testing was completed, this is what we knew for sure: Without outside help, Sanford would not win. We knew our messaging worked. We knew this wasn’t about Sanford but about whether a free market conservative or a liberal would hold the seat both short term and for potentially a long time. And we believed that our messaging could stop the free fall, help Sanford rally, and even turn the tables.
Accordingly, IWV spent about $250,000 in the last week of the campaign. Of that, $160,000 went to broadcast and cable television and print advertising, and live GOTV calls. Additionally – taking special care with South Carolina’s rather restrictive laws on auto-dialed phone calls – we supplemented that with innovative, non-advocacy, factual, interactive quiz calls. These were not push polls. Instead they used the same documented information conveyed in our ads.
There was no red meat. We believe voters, at least our voters, are pretty smart and that people didn’t need us to tell them what to think, they just needed to be made aware of relevant facts on issues they care about, like ObamaCare repeal, and why turning out to vote is so important.
As our last ad – done with local grassroots, published in The Post & Courier, and signed by over 200 resident women, and displayed below – said: “We are your mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, co-workers, neighbors and friends. We stand on principle. We vote on the issues. Tomorrow’s election is vital to the future of our country, and given the choice before us, we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We support Mark Sanford. Please vote Mark Sanford tomorrow.”
On May 7th, they did.