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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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May 6th, 2013
07:38 PM ET

Democrats 'think they are going to lose' South Carolina special

All signs out of South Carolina point towards redemption for Mark Sanford, said USA Today's Washington editor Susan Page.

"You can tell the Democrats think that they are going to lose this," Page told CNN's Jake Tapper, "because they are starting to describe why it's a really good thing, if they do."

On election eve, Page pointed to Democratic strategists pining for Sanford to provide the kind of Todd Akin-like fodder that helped several statewide candidates protect vulnerable seats as a sure sign think they will come up wrong end when votes tallies come in from Columbia Tuesday. If he wins, the disgraced ex-Governor, rejected by his own party after lying, admitting to an affair, and allegedly getting caught trespassing on his ex-wife's property, will have capped one of the most unexpected political comebacks in recent years.

In a race that's had a little bit of everything – mistresses, celebrity brothers, Bill Clinton comparisons, and cardboard cutouts of Nancy Pelsoi – most pollsters had Sanford trailing Palmetto State businesswoman Elizabeth Colbert Busch for the majority of the contest. While a survey from a Democratic-leaning firm indicated the race is virtually tied heading into election day, former Romney campaign adviser Kevin Madden said it has been difficult for Sanford to gain ground in the polls.

"The biggest problem that Sanford would have is if he made this a redemption tour...and he struggled when he did do that," Madden said.

Sanford reversed the trend line, according to Madden, when he shifted the focus off his personal story and onto his district's anxieties about what they believe is going wrong in Washington, namely, problems with out of control spending and the President's healthcare law. Madden said the change in strategy stiffled Colbert Busch's, an independent-leaning Democrat, momentum.

"There was a good group of people that parked themselves in undecided for a while because the believed the candidate...was a bit flawed [but] clearly it looks like they are breaking back more towards the traditional demographics of that district," said Madden.

Though a loss on Tuesday will be an immediate blow to Democrats in the House, CNN political analyst Donna Brazile dismissed any possibility the race has forward-looking implications.

"This is a ruby red district," Brazile said. "In ordinary times there is no question Governor Sanford would win this in a nano-second."

Even with a loss on Tuesday for Democrats, Brazile expects "a lot of late-night conversations and some early-morning coffees about Mark Sanford back in the House of Representatives."

For more politics, check out the video below to see what our political panel had to say about Clarence Thomas’ comments on President Obama.

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