Exactly one week after GOP leaders pulled funding from the Congressional candidate Mark Sanford, the South Carolina Republican appeared at a bizarre campaign event in Charleston Wednesday morning, during which Sanford "debated" a full-color cardboard poster of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, held aloft by one of his campaign staffers. Local reporters captured the scene from multiple angles as Sanford held forth on a sidewalk in front of the Medical University of South Carolina:
Mark Sanford and Nancy Pelosi cutout as he tries to call out E Colbert Busch twitter.com/skropf47/statu…— schuyler kropf (@skropf47) April 24, 2013
We compiled this GIF from photos taken by reporter Stefanie Bainum of ABC News 4:
Sanford even bragged about the event on his Twitter feed:
Sanford's website goes on to explain that he staged the event to protest opponent Elizabeth Colbert Busch's decision to publicly debate Sanford only once, and chose to feature Nancy Pelosi because Busch, a Democrat and sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, has supported the Democratic leader's policy initiatives. (Sanford's campaign even cut an ad describing Colbert Busch as "PELOSI'S VOICE.")
In response, Busch's campaign flayed Sanford: "While Mark Sanford continues his desperate campaign to deceive voters, Elizabeth Colbert Busch is spending her time with real people who support her campaign ... She doesn't have to resort to phony cardboard cutouts to talk with the people of South Carolina."
Sanford's strange appearance comes a week after the National Republican Congressional Committee decided to pull funding from Sanford's campaign after the candidate was accused of trespassing on his former wife's home on Sullivan's Island, South Carolina — to watch the Super Bowl with his son, Sanford insisted several times.
And the optics on the imaginary Pelosi are perplexing. Remember Clint Eastwood and the empty chair? Or Hillary Clinton and the panda mask? A cardboard poster at a campaign stop isn't exactly on that level, of course, but its weirdness suggests that Sanford is getting a little desperate. After all, he's down some 9 points in the polls less than two weeks ahead of the May 7 special election, and he's still dealing with his infamous hikes along the Appalachian Trail.