Following the news that national Republicans have pulled their support for Mark Sanford,, experts say he may well still win his race. That's because his campaign is capable of fundraising on its own and the fact he's running to reclaim his old House seat in a deeply conservative district.
"If you put a gun on me, I would say still as a Republican he's got to be the favorite," says David Woodard, a South Carolina political consultant and visiting professor at Southern Methodist University. "He wasn't depending on their money that much to begin with; he can get plenty of support."
Sanford, the scandal-ridden former governor and once-rising star in the Republican Party, is running to replace former Republican Rep. Tim Scott, who was appointed to the U.S. Senate earlier this year.
But Woodard does say the decision by the National Republican Congressional Committee, made in the wake of public revelations Sanford would be appearing in court two days after the May 7 election on allegations he repeatedly trespassed on the property of his ex-wife, is just one of many factors piling up on Sanford.
"It's sort of dying by a 1,000 cuts. Every time you get a new news story, it's bad," he says. "It seems pretty incomprehensible in my saner moments that a Republican could lose that seat, especially somebody who used to hold it, but I can begin to see a scenario where that could happen."
Sanford's opponent is Elizabeth Colbert Busch, sister to comedian Stephen Colbert, another reason why the race could be a real contest, Woodard says.
"If he was just running against Joe Democrat, that would be one thing, but he's running against someone who has her own resources and certainly her brother is going to have some fundraisers," he says. "So this isn't some race where he just has to show up and have his name spelled correctly. For all her shortcomings, basically being a Democrat in South Carolina, she'll have enough money, can define herself; if she does it right, he could really be in trouble."
Sanford made national headlines while governor when he was missing for several days. Staffers told the public he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, but in reality he was in Argentina courting his mistress. He's since divorced his wife, Jenny, and is engaged to the Argentine woman.
The NRCC's decision to pull support for Sanford should also be seen as a signal to all GOP candidates, says a Republican campaign strategist.
"Anybody who is considering running for office or re-election in the Republican Party should use this as a clear message, which is our party now has zero tolerance for the Sanford's, the Todd Akins, the candidates who lack the common sense to not say and do stupid things and then as a result drag the party down," he says. "We felt the impact of that last fall and there is going to be zero tolerance for that type of thing going forward."
Republicans lost several Senate races in 2010 and 2012 that had been considered favorable, thanks to alienating comments made by their candidates.
"That's part of a larger image makeover and smart management," the strategist says. "I think you are going to see the same type of thing by the [National Republican Senatorial Committee] and at the [Republican National Committee]. I think it's a very clear message being sent."
Recent polling shows Sanford and Colbert Busch are neck-and-neck, with the election less than three weeks away.