Boehner endorses Mark Sanford in SC special election

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is endorsing former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) in his attempted House comeback, Boehner's office told The Hill.

"This election offers the voters of South Carolina's First Congressional District a clear choice between a Republican who will work to reduce spending, balance the budget and grow the economy, and a Democrat who will stand with President Obama's policies that are making it harder for people to find work," Boehner spokesman Cory Fritz said in an emailed statement. "The Speaker supports our Republican nominee and knows that, if elected, Mr. Sanford will work tirelessly to help expand opportunities for all Americans."

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Boehner and other House Republican leaders had stayed silent on the race until now, though National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) endorsed Sanford last week after he won his primary runoff.

It would be a stunning political comeback if Sanford defeats businesswoman Elizabeth Colbert Busch (D), comedian Stephen Colbert's sister, in the early May House special election.

In 2009, he admitted he'd left the state to carry on an extramarital affair with an Argentinian woman — now his fiancée — after aides initially claimed he'd gone hiking on the Appalachian Trail. The man who once looked like a presidential contender finished his term as the butt of late-night comics' jokes.

But a Sanford win is far from guaranteed. The race appears to be tight despite the Charleston district's heavy Republican lean, and national Democrats are rallying to Colbert Busch's side.

A number of national Republicans have groused — publicly and privately — that Sanford's return is causing unnecessary distraction for the GOP at a time when many Republicans are seeking to rebrand their party, and no major elected officials endorsed Sanford before his primary win. Many are also privately worried he could lose what should be an easy seat to hold.