SC 1st Congressional debate considered 'Slugfest'

By Eric

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Mark Sanford and Elizabeth Colbert Busch were back together at a speaking event Tuesday night. It was less than 24 hours after they battled toe-to-toe in a heated debate.

Since it wrapped, the talk dissecting the debate has only been amplified. It's been called a slugfest by some, putting South Carolina politics back in the spotlight.

News of the showdown crossed coasts Tuesday morning. It was picked up by publications across the country after both sides traded political and personal blows for more than an hour.

"I don't think you would have written me a $500 check as I left Congress and began to run for governor," Sanford said to Colbert Busch, in response to her questioning why he did not vote in favor of the Charleston Harbor deepening.

Minutes later Colbert Busch fired back.

"It doesn't mean you take the money we saved and leave the country for a personal purpose," she said.

Sanford's response was that he didn't quite catch the remark.

"I couldn't hear what she said," said the former governor.

Both sides took stances on the big issues like spending, job creation and healthcare. There was little surprise they did it with a flair for the dramatic.

"It wasn't an accident we saw two big name figures going at it last night," said Alex Isenstadt.

But Isenstadt, a Washington D.C.-based reporter for Politico, said Sanford tried hard to steer the focus back to the issues.

"He thinks that this race has really all been about his personal life, and to some extent that frustrates him, but it also plays into Colbert Busch's strategy," Isenstadt said.

"I was impressed that Colbert Busch was that aggressive," said College of Charleston Political Science professor Gibbs Knotts. "She really took the gloves off and went after him, I certainly think her base wanted her to do that."

There was no scorecard at the end of the night but the marks for entertainment value were certainly high. How it will influence Tuesday's special election remains in the hands of the voters.

Analysts agreed both sides scored some important points, which could lead to a very close finish come election night.