Watch the debate:
Colbert-Busch began by saying that her greatest professional accomplishment was her business career. Mark Sanford touted his 20 year record of cutting spending. He then gave the standard talking points about government being in your wallet, and said that he was part of the House class of ’94 that balanced the budget.
Colbert-Busch got big applause for saying she supports the Chamber of Commerce’s position on immigration reform. She said immigrants should pay their taxes, learn to speak English, and get to the back of the line. Sanford said the immigration reform bill needs some more work. He blamed labor unions for shutting the guest worker program down. Colbert-Busch dodged when asked if she agreed with Sanford on the unions, but said we need fair immigration reform.
The discussion moved to the Port of Charleston. Colbert-Busch called the port an economic engine for the state. She hit Sanford for voting against the bridge, dredging, job creation, and said that he was the only congressman to do that. Sanford said that Colbert-Busch donated $500 to his first gubernatorial campaign, so his vote could not have bothered her that much. Sanford than tried to piggyback off of Tim Scott by saying, “I agree with what Tim Scott says.” Colbert-Busch rebutted his point that she donated $500 to his campaign, and said that Sanford lied to her about supporting trade. He said he supported it, and then he turned around and did the opposite. Sanford said again if it really bothered you why did you write a campaign check in support of my candidacy for governor?
Sanford was asked about Obamacare. He said he doesn’t like the bill (sic), and he would vote to defund it. Sanford brought up the tired Obamacare lie that the government is going to come between doctors and patients. He then played that old Southern classic, government doesn’t tell you what products to buy. Colbert-Busch called Obamacare problematic. She said it was expensive. It cuts into Medicare benefits. It causes employers to layoff their employees, She added that it needed to be fixed. She listed the things she liked about the bill, and said it was good business, creates jobs, and we need it. Sanford tried to tie her to the Democrats in Congress by claiming that her Washington fundraiser was hosted by 37 Dems who voted for Obamacare. Sanford then launched his big strategy, linking his opponent to Nancy Pelosi. Colbert-Busch said, “Nobody tells me what to do, except for the people of the 1st District of South Carolina.”
They moved on to entitlement reform, and Colbert-Busch said entitlement reforms should be bipartisan. She talked about addressing entitlement costs. She repeated the lie that Obamacare cuts Medicare benefits. Sanford wanted all Medicare dollars moved to a block grant system, and pushed for the privatization of Social Security. Colbert-Busch shot back that if Social Security would had been privatized seniors would have been devastated when the stock market crashed. Sanford said he would have voted for the bill to fix the flight delays. Colbert-Busch said the sequester was poorly executed. She said that when you talk about protecting taxpayers that doesn’t mean you take the money, leave the country, and use it for personal purposes. Sanford returned to trying to tie Colbert-Busch to Nancy Pelosi.
On education, Colbert-Busch praised public schools and disagreed with Sanford’s voucher plan. Sanford framed his voucher plan as choices that make sense. (Sanford is looking like a candidate who has been stuck in time warp. He is repeating the same ideas that he has been pushing for years.) Sanford got big applause after he again defended his vote on the port, and attacked big government. Colbert-Busch hit Sanford for not creating jobs while he was governor. Sanford claimed that the state was 15th in job creation under him.
Colbert-Busch said that the NLRB overstepped their bounds when they tried to stop Boeing from locating in South Carolina. Sanford tried to label Colbert-Busch a liberal because she took $70,000 from labor unions. Colbert-Busch said that what Sanford was saying was not true, and that she took a pledge to represent everyone in the First District. Sanford called it a gut check issue, and said that he wants to represent everyone but not the union that was trying to shut down Boeing in South Carolina.
Sanford used a question about special interest money to paint Colbert-Busch as too liberal for the district, and claimed that she has gotten a million dollars from outside special groups. Colbert-Busch said her only pledge and special interest is to the people South Carolina District One. Period. Sanford said that it isn’t believable that someone would give Colbert-Busch a million dollars, and expect nothing.
On the topic of gay marriage, Colbert-Busch said that she supported full equality, and quoted Dick Cheney. Sanford touted the fact that he voted for DOMA, and tied DOMA to not letting Washington decide things for us. He said that marriage is the purview of the states. Sanford was asked if would vote to impeach Clinton again, and he cleverly reversed the question and asked do you think Bill Clinton should be condemned for the rest of his life?
On the issue of abortion, Colbert-Busch said that this issue is between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her God. Sanford replied by trying to hit the Democrat for taking things off of her website.
Sanford kept hinting that Colbert-Busch was lying about her positions because liberal groups are funding her campaign, but Colbert-Busch kept repeating that she only cares about the First District.
Colbert-Busch closed her big night by dropping a bomb on Sanford that if elected, she promised to give back 10% of her salary to the taxpayers.
Mark Sanford’s struggles tonight reminded me of Scott Brown when he debated Elizabeth Warren. Sanford spent the entire debate trying to paint Colbert-Busch as too liberal for the district. Sanford pulled a Scott Brown, and tried to bring up character issues about his opponent. Mark Sanford’s attacks in this debate sent the clear message that his campaign thinks he is losing. For her part, Colbert-Busch said that Sanford lied to her, and she brought up his “Appalachian Trail” trip.
Sanford has the red meat Republican talking points nailed, but Colbert-Busch is a formidable candidate that showed why she has wide appeal with everyone except the district’s hard core conservatives. Sanford’s only shot at winning this election looks like it is to convince this heavily Republican district that Colbert-Busch is too liberal, hiding something, and she can’t be trusted.
That is an awful tall order for someone who has lied, and continued to lie to the voters of this district. Colbert-Busch was strong and very impressive. Unlike Sanford, she projected honesty. The promise to give back 10% of her salary to the taxpayers might be the blow that wins her a seat in the House.
(Note: Video has been added.)
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA.Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association