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Sanford challenges questions with spontaneous poll of women

Congressional hopefuls Mark Sanford and Elizabeth Colbert-Bush made the most of their final weekend of campaigning in this fiercely contested special election. NBC's Ali Weinberg reports.

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, bidding for political redemption in a congressional race after a high-profile divorce that seemingly ended his aspirations, sought to challenge the notion that he has a problem among women voters by spending part of a visit to a small shopping street looking for, as he put it, “a woman who hates me.”

The question of Sanford's ability to win women voters, first raised by his 2009 high-profile affair and divorce, re-emerged after a recent legal dispute with his ex-wife. He further complicated matters during a debate last week, saying he had not heard his opponent when she asked a question about the affair and his use of public funds surrounding the episode.

On Saturday, after answering several questions about whether he thought a trespassing charge at his ex-wife’s home might compromise his standing with female voters, Sanford led reporters on a foray in downtown Summerville, S.C., stopping women to ask them their opinion of him, specifically referring to the question posed by a reporter for NBC News.

“No group’s vote is a monolith,” Sanford said, pointing out that he had recently received an endorsement for Tuesday’s special election from a group of Republican women who took an ad out in a local newspaper.  Sanford is running against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch to fill the South Carolina congressional seat vacated by now-Sen. Tim Scott.

Sanford also noted that during his visit to the hot dog restaurant Perfectly Frank’s, where earlier that afternoon his campaign announced the endorsement of the Tea Party Express, patrons had not brought the issue up.

When the reporter noted that he was speaking to a crowd that included some people who had gone to the restaurant specifically for the campaign event, Sanford dismissed that context as “the case of any political venue." 

“If you’re a political figure, some people, because they hear you’re going to be at some place, they’re going to show up,” he said.

Sanford then walked across the street to begin his meet-and-greet, flanked by two campaign staffers and three reporters, telling the reporter who asked the questions about his status with women that he rejected the “premise” that women wouldn’t vote for him because of his personal life.

He then indicated he wanted to seek out women who “hated” him.

“Let’s go to this woman – does she look biased?” he asked as he crossed the street, the NBC reporter walking next to him. 

As a car whizzed by, he told the reporter, “Watch out, I don’t want you to get run over. Actually I kind of do, but that’s a different story.”

After Sanford caught up with the woman he had pointed out, she told him she was a big supporter and that she would be making phone calls for him on Tuesday.

A staffer, mimicking Sanford’s tongue-in-cheek approach, suggested that the woman had been planted.

A few shops down, he stopped in a women’s consignment store to chat with two shoppers who were visiting South Carolina from Arkansas, but who had seen some of his campaign ads and signs, which they said were “beautiful.”

“You look like you’re totally capable and we wish you luck,” one of the women told him.

Laughing, Sanford pointed to the two cameras in front of him, saying, “you hear that?”

Later, Sanford visited a women’s clothing store where the shopkeeper said she knew one of Sanford’s staffers, and that the staffer “knows I’m in your corner.”

“Oh good,” the former governor said. “[But] that defeats what I’m after.”

Pointing to the NBC reporter, he continued, “We were trying to find her a woman who hates me so she can use it in her TV show. She’s with NBC National.”

As Sanford wrapped up his hourlong canvas, he came across a couple, each of whom expressed their support for him.

After indicating, as he had previously, that the NBC reporter was looking to talk to women who didn’t support him because of his marital history, the woman, Patty Hulbard, responded, “I'm not your biggest fan. What you did I don't appreciate, but that should not influence my vote necessarily.”

 “You line up ideology with my thinking, so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt,” she continued. 

“I appreciate that. Thank you,” Sanford said.

Turning to NBC’s camera, he pointed and said, “That’s pretty close to what you’re looking for. We’re getting somewhere, all right.” 

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