Colorful S.C. campaign enters final week after debate Monday

On Monday night, former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford (R) debated Elizabeth Colbert Busch (D), his opponent in the May 7 special congressional election in the state’s first district. Find video and important moments from the debate here. At The Fix, Sean Sullivan calls the debate a draw:

Mark Sanford needed a decisive win Monday night. He didn’t get one. . .

From the beginning, Colbert Busch aggressively challenged Sanford. She knocked his record in Congress, slammed his 2009 disappearance as governor, and parried his attempts to tie her to national Democrats.

“When we talk about fiscal spending, and we talk about protecting the taxpayers, it doesn’t mean you take that money we saved and leave the country for a personal purpose,” Colbert Busch declared early in the debate. (Read the rest here.)

Colbert Busch was referring to a trip Sanford took to Argentina in 2009, while he was still governor, to visit his former mistress and now-fiancee in Argentina. State officials would later conclude that Sanford did not use public funds improperly.

The campaign has been colorful. When accusations from Sanford’s ex-wife’s that he had trespassed on her property became public two weeks ago, the former governor responded by buying a full-page advertisement in a local paper to explain his actions. Last week, Sanford held a mock debate with a life-sized image of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on cardboard.

Sanford won the Republican primary election in a run-off at the beginning of the month. After that victory, Post opinion writer Jennifer Rubin complained that Republicans had abandoned the institution of marriage by supporting Sanford:

At his party celebrating his decisive primary win over Curtis Bostic, none other than his Argentinian fianceé,  Maria Belen, strode in and planted a smooch on the once-disgraced governor’s lips. Take that, values voters!. . .

I can’t wait to hear Sanford explain his position on same-sex marriage and hear his definition of the institution (one man and one woman, a hike, and another woman ?) . Maybe he will discover that marriage is about finding your “soul mate,” and no government or social convention should prevent you from cementing your bonds with that person. Will Republicans now kiss and make up (so to speak) with the candidate who symbolizes contempt for family values?

For more on what to expect in the campaign’s final days, visit The Fix.

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Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.

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