"The Republican Party owes Sanford nothing. He had a chance and he blew it," Coulter wrote in a column March 20, shortly before endorsing Sanford's GOP rival, Curtis Bostic. "(H)e never accomplished anything of substance. ... The most memorable thing Sanford did in his entire life was to make himself a laughingstock as governor by running off with his Argentine honey and then going on TV to announce -- in front of his wife and children -- 'I've fallen in love!' "
In the final days before Tuesday's GOP runoff for the 1st Congressional District, both Bostic and Sanford are in overdrive, gathering endorsements -- and sending a message to voters about who is in their corner.
Sanford hopes to maintain his lead and capture a majority of votes Tuesday to become the GOP nominee. Bostic must catapult over Sanford to cinch the nomination. The winner faces Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch in the May 7 general election.
But it's unclear whether endorsements really help candidates. And even bigger questions remain about whether the candidates are seeking the right ones.
"Most voters don't even vote in runoff elections," said Scott Huffmon, a Winthrop University political scientist and pollster. "Beyond that, only a fraction get exposure to the endorsement, and even fewer are swayed."
A MATTER OF TRUST
In Bostic's corner is a group of social conservatives that might have forgiven Sanford his 2009 extramarital affair but is unwilling to give him another term in Congress. That list includes Coulter; Rick Santorum, a 2012 Republican presidential candidate known for his social conservatism; singer Pat Boone; and 45 Lowcountry clergy from Baptist, Lutheran, nondenominational and other churches.
Sonny Holmes, pastor of the 1,700-member Northwood Baptist Church in North Charleston and a former president of the S.C. Baptist Convention, said he is backing Bostic because of the Charleston attorney's quiet involvement in the community to help others and his Christian faith reflected in the way he lives.
"I've always believed character matters, and I can't find any criticism of his character," he said.
Holmes has voted for Sanford twice in previous races. But he said he can no longer trust Sanford after state ethics violations, which include adding a leg to a state economic-development trip during which Sanford saw his lover in Argentina.
ENOUGH SOCIAL CONSERVATIVES?
There may be one big problem with Bostic's approach: The 1st Congressional District and the Lowcountry generally are not known as hotbeds of social conservatives; there may not be enough of them to give Bostic the edge in Tuesday's runoff.
"Traditionally, we think of the number (of social conservatives) as higher in the Upstate and lower in the Lowcountry," Hoffman said.
And the possibility looms large that some of Bostic's religious views could turn away some more moderate voters.
For example, Bostic says he is a creationist.
The Bostic campaign won't specifically define Bostic's belief, but the term typically applies to those who express a disbelief in evolution paired with a belief that Earth was created a relatively short time ago, typically between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago.
Meanwhile, Sanford takes a more moderate approach to the Earth's beginnings.
"My faith is not challenged by creation anymore than evolution," said Sanford, an oft-quoter of the Bible, during a recent campaign stop in Bluffton.
Sanford said he's uncertain whether it took God seven, 24-hour days to make Earth or whether the timeline was longer. Instead, he says his focus is on a God who loves and forgives.
SUPPORT FROM RIVALS
Sanford has not racked up endorsements from the faith community, instead seeking support from the GOP rivals he defeated in the primary, as well as elected officials, from the Statehouse down to town councils.
So far, the Charleston Republican has received backing from six of 15 primary rivals.
Collectively, those six candidates received 7 percent of the primary vote. Sanford took 37 percent, while Bostic took 13 percent.
The biggest prize: former Dorchester County Sheriff Ray Nash, who captured nearly 5 percent of the primary vote thanks to strong support from the Tea Party.
Nash said he decided to endorse Sanford after watching the former governor at the many forums the two candidates attended. Nash said he was impressed with Sanford's views on reducing debt, limiting spending and protecting the U.S. Constitution.
That's not the case with Bostic, who attended few of the forums, Nash said.
"(Bostic) wasn't at very many events, so we didn't have the opportunity to tell what many of his positions and platforms were," Nash said.
Sanford's scooping up of rivals is smart, said Dave Woodard, a Clemson political scientist and Republican consultant.
"It's a new story every day about what he's doing, who is now in his corner," Woodard said. "And he looks like he's broad-based."
And if turnout is low, as expected, "it could be the difference between first and second place."
Follow reporter Gina Smith at twitter.com/GinaNSmith.