Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Watching the first and only debate between Mark Sanford and Elizabeth Colbert Busch, it hit me why Colbert Busch would only appear in one face-to-face event.
It’s the dress.
Though she works for Clemson, surely she can’t have enough symbolic purple dresses to wear throughout this campaign. And surely being clad in a dress that is a little red mixed with a lot of blue was no accident for this debate. Indeed, Colbert Busch’s purple answers were as tailored for this debate as her purple dress was.
In Monday’s debate, nobody scored a knockout blow, and nobody made a critical mistake. The crowd was allowed to get too rowdy, and it was obvious there was coordination among the Democrats about which touch points for which to show the most reaction. For instance, Sanford’s repeated linking of Colbert Busch to Nancy Pelosi brought loud boos every time. As we say in the south, “A stuck pig always squeals.”
Like many voters in this district, after watching the debate online, I mozied on over to the Twitterverse to see the raw, unfiltered reaction of Twitter users. In the old days, voters would have gathered at a local pub after such a spirited and polarizing debate and we would have traded barbs there. Now, we all just digitally connect as the wired world has made us oxymoronically “alone together.” Following all the Twitter posts for the hashtag #SC1, two things stood out. First, it appears the debate didn’t change anyone’s mind about either candidate, but rather ignited the passions of those who have already made their choice. Second, as the campaign money trail shows, there is a lot of outside interest in this race, and that is a point Mark Sanford drove home repeatedly. Colbert Busch was obviously using the Fritz Hollings strategy – campaign in South Carolina like a conservative, then go to Washington and vote with the liberals. Her answers were straight liberal party line on the social issues of gay marriage and abortion, and also on the practical issues of school choice and private Social Security accounts. Sanford’s response to the Bill Clinton comparison was quite effective. He missed at least one good opportunity for a comeback.
Colbert Busch said she was against school choice, then said a woman’s choice to have an abortion is between the woman, her doctor and her god. A stinging comeback by Sanford would have been to ask why Colbert Busch trusts a woman to decide whether or not her child gets to be born, but doesn’t trust her to decide which school is best for her own child.
This congressional district supported Romney by 18 points over Obama in 2012. That means a Democrat like Colbert Busch may run out of purple answers and purple dresses before next Tuesday’s election. She has to rely on the personal issues to defeat Sanford, and she squeezed that into the debate.
The challenge for Sanford is voter turnout among conservative voters. He needed a raucous and polarizing debate to get voters energized for this unusual May election, and Monday’s debate may have given him just that.
Will Haynie has published more than 400 oped columns as a feature columnist for the Asheville Citizen-Times and the Hendersonville (N.C.) Times-News when it was owned by the New York Times. His niche is as a humorous conservative. Find him on Twitter at @willhaynie or email him at Haynie.email@example.com.