South Carolina 1: Sanford Wins, Seat Returns to Safe GOP for 2014

May 7, 2013 · 9:57 PM EDT

Former Gov. Mark Sanford disappointed both parties by winning the special election in South Carolina’s 1st District and keeping the seat in Republican hands.

It looks like national GOP strategists played the special election just right for once, and it wasn’t because they held the seat. With the National Republican Congressional Committee remaining on the sidelines and not spending money on the race, Republicans can deflect some of the likely Democratic message that the polarizing Sanford is the new face of the national GOP. House Republicans can say, “We didn’t want him and we didn’t help him.”

Even though they lost, Democrats couldn’t really sit this race out. With high profile figures such as Sanford and Stephen Colbert’s sister in the race, Democratic donors may have wondered why their party wasn’t taking the opportunity to challenge for the seat against someone with such public failures.

Sanford should expect a primary challenge next year, but if Democrats couldn’t win the seat under these conditions, it’s difficult to see them having much of a chance next year.