But then, this was Mark Sanford, who needed to be called on it:
As the NRCC’s move suggests, Sanford’s recent history is the main reason the race is so competitive. In 2009, he admitted to traveling to Argentina for an affair with his mistress without informing the public he was out of the state. The scandal sparked a state investigation that ended with Sanford paying a $74,000 ethics fine for misusing taxpayer dollars for personal use.
Colbert Busch brought the issue up sparingly but directly. At one point she questioned Sanford’s understanding of fiscal prudence, saying “it doesn’t mean you take that money we saved and leave the country for a personal purpose.”
There were, I think, more pointed ways of reminding the voters of Sanford’s moral failings – including the recent dust-up with his ex-wife where she claimed he was trespassing in her house – without coming across as a bluenose accountant, but then I’m not running in South Carolina, and to be honest, the video of the exchange seems to show that Sanford was quite rattled by the charge, claiming he didn’t hear it.
Perhaps Colbert’s larger point was that she wasn’t judging his personal adventures walking in the woods (which is how I would have phrased it) but focusing on the fiscal impropriety (again, my turn of phrase would have done the same thing but would have been more direct than Colbert-Busch’s.)
When prepped, Sanford could actually turn a decently scripted pirouette:
Sanford brought the Argentina episode up at times himself, claiming “you don’t go through the experience I had back in 2009 without a greater level of humility.” And he slickly rebutted a question from the debate moderator over whether he regretted his vote to impeach President Clinton over his affair with Monica Lewinsky given his own personal history.
“I would reverse the quesiton to you and I would say this: Do you think that President Clinton should be condemned for the rest of his life based on a mistake that he made in his life?” he said.
That was a very nice way of asking forgiveness of the voters without seeming cloying or begging, but notice that it doesn’t address the real problem with his wanderings: the fact he used public money to enjoy a little private something-something, even tho he technically was cleared of criminal charges.
This is not to say that Colbert-Busch should automatically get anyone’s vote: she’s come out opposed to Obamacare, altho that’s pretty much a moot point now, and she’s bucked the party on unions, which is really troubling, considering her brother made his millions under the auspices of SAG-AFTRA.
This debate was Sanford’s one and only opportunity to portray Colbert-Busch as an amateur with a famous brother and no ideas, and instead failed to present himself as a credible candidate. I think this is his last step on the road to being a FOX News commentator.