The two top Republican finishers in the primary to fill former Rep. Tim Scott’s House seat in a special election next week met for a debate, one that by all accounts was respectful and even friendly.  Even so, Curtis Bostic did not spare Mark Sanford a challenge about his credibility after his personal scandal marred his final term as South Carolina’s governor.  Sanford admitted that this was “an important question,” and gave a lengthy answer that received “raucous” applause, according to the Daily Caller:

“Gov. Sanford, it is, to use the term, the elephant in the room. In 2009, you broke the trust of the people of South Carolina,” said the moderator. “How do you reconcile redemption with the mistrust in the personal decision which could or may have compromised the state and the party?”

Sanford called it an “important question, and one that I suspect one that I’ll wrestle at one level or another with for the rest of my life.”

“I failed,” he said. “And I failed very publicly.”

“What I would say is the events of 2009 absolutely represent a failure on my part for which there were and always will be at some level consequences. But that does not mean that because you’ve had a failure on your personal life, that you cannot step back into life again,” Sanford said.

He said that when the seat opened up, “all of sudden my phone lines light up with a lot of people saying, ‘Mark you need to do this.’ And at first you’re scared to death, you don’t know how you’d be received if you were to step back into the waters. But people kept calling, and they kept calling and they said, ‘Mark, you need to do this, because here’s a chance for you to learn not only from your experience in Congress and the governorship, but more significantly from what you learned on the way up and the way down and apply it to what is arguably one of the great conundrums of our civilization, which is how do we get our fiscal house in order.’ And should I make it, that’s what I intend to do.”

The video below contains some highlights from the debate, including most of Sanford’s answer to that question, although it skips the question.  Later, Sanford attacked Bostic for not offering a complete financial disclosure to the FEC, warning voters that they may be in for surprised.  “While my skeletons are out there,” Sanford joked, “they’re out there.”

Closer to the issues, Bostic hit Sanford for his performance in the same Congressional seat earlier in his career.  In three terms, Bostic pointed out, Sanford never had a bill pass in the House.  In one term, Tim Scott had more than a dozen, and Bostic told the audience that it takes more than a “Mr. No” to get things done. Bostic painted himself as a man who can say “yes,” which frankly in this Tea Party atmosphere is a huge opening for attack in a Republican primary.  Sanford instead chose to respond more philosophically, citing Barry Goldwater as an inspiration to emphasize that he didn’t keep score by how many bills he passed, but by how well he protected liberty.

Last week, a PPP poll showed Sanford with a significant but not insurmountable lead in the runoff.  Did he do well enough to hold off a Bostic charge? Take a look at the video and make the call yourself, but I’d say both men acquitted themselves well.