Since it’s South Carolina we are talking about, it was just a matter of time until some serious skullduggery emerged in the 1st congressional district special election, particularly among those backing the increasingly desperate candidacy of Mark Sanford. According to ThinkProgress‘ Scott Keyes and Adam Peck, a shadowy and previously unknown organization calling itself “SSI Polling” has been conducting classic “push-poll” calls in the district, with “questions” like the following:

– “What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if I told you she had had an abortion?”

– “What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if I told you a judge held her in contempt of court at her divorce proceedings?

– “What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if she had done jail time?”

– “What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if I told you she was caught running up a charge account bill?”

Nice. The transparent purpose of the calls is to encourage conservative voters to conclude both candidates are lower morally than snake’s belly in a wagon rut, making a pure partisan or ideological vote for Sanford less unsavory. It’s not clear how extensive the calls were or whether they are still being made, but stuff like this usually happens in conjunction with (and is designed to promote) a whispering campaign like the one which afflicted John McCain during the pivotal 2000 presidential primary in the Palmetto State.

All this is going on even as the adultery facilitation site has put up a billboard in South Carolina suggesting Sanford should have used their confidential services. But it’s unlikely there are many voters in the district who need to be reminded of the ex-governor’s foibles.

Indeed, rumors are circulating in South Carolina that soon-to-be-released polls will show Sanford gaining ground on Busch; he’s also getting some validation from national conservative sources like Rand Paul and FreedomWorks. It could be months or years before we learn what all went on under the radar in this Low Country contest, particularly now that we are in the last week.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.