In the days leading up to election, political analysts pegged the race between Mr. Sanford and Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch — sister of TV comedian and political satirist Stephen Colbert — as a dead heat. But Mr. Sanford won with ease, capturing 54 percent of the vote to his opponent’s 45 percent.
Mr. Knotts says the polls may have been skewed because some voters may have been too embarrassed to admit they supported the disgraced Republican.
They “ultimately were going to vote for him but they wanted to keep that between them and the voting booth and not necessary tell a pollster,” he said.
Some speculate the Republican Party will back a formidable challenger to Mr. Sanford if he runs for re-election in 2014, as expected. But others say the party establishment likely will take a wait-and-see approach before making such a decision.
“Now that Sanford’s coming back to Washington, Republicans will be looking for consistent behavior from him and a solid voting record. And if he does those things then he’ll be in solid standing” with the party, Mr. Bonjean said.
“No matter how people feel about Sanford, he won the election and has a vote in Washington, and his behavior will dictate whether he sticks around for very long.”
Democrats, meanwhile, already are plotting ways to use Mr. Sanford against the Republicans in next year’s mid-term elections — calling into question their rival’s wisdom and ethics for backing a once scandal-riddled member.
“Democrats will be aggressive and drive deep into Republican-held territory this [election] cycle to find districts with flawed Republican candidates where we can compete,” said Rep. Steve Israel of New York, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.