In South Carolina, political debates aren't about who's right — they are about who can get furthest to the right.

And Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch spent her one debate with Republican Mark Sanford trying to make herself palatable to GOP voters who think the ex-governor, well, isn't.

For every time Sanford brought up Nancy Pelosi, Colbert Busch said “bipartisanship” or “reach across the aisle.” That's debate code.

It all makes sense in a Republican-leaning area that went for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama last year by a 3-2 ratio.

With that as the backdrop, here's a look at what the 1st Congressional District candidates said Monday night passed through a debate decoder, which hopefully explains what they really meant.

Colbert Busch said: “Obamacare is extremely problematic.”

What she meant: My support of Obamacare is extremely problematic in this campaign.

Sanford said: “On the port, I have the exact position that Tim Scott does.”

What he meant: Tim sometimes makes “DeMinted” votes, and you still like him.

Colbert Busch said: “I am in full support of the Chamber of Commerce and their position on immigration.”

She meant: I hope they don't realize the Chamber is soft on foreigners by South Carolina standards.

Sanford said: “I was against earmarks before being against earmarks was cool.”

He meant: I hope that's a good excuse for voting against funding the Ravenel Bridge and dredging the harbor.

Colbert Busch said that abortion is “an incredibly delicate, sensitive personal question that is between a woman, her family, her doctor and her God.”

She meant: This is an incredibly delicate, sensitive personal question that I wish you hadn't asked me.

Sanford said: “Do you think that President Clinton should be condemned for the rest of his life based on a mistake he made in his life?”

He meant: Please don't condemn me for the rest of my life for doing the same thing I criticized Clinton for doing in the '90s.

When Sanford said: “What was the question? I'll go back to sequestration.”

He meant: She can go there, but I'm not.

Colbert Busch said: “I would never vote against the 2nd Amendment but we do need expanded background checks.”

She meant: I straddled that fence well enough for moderate folks. Too bad there aren't any in the 1st District.

Sanford said: “How do we get our financial house in order?”

He meant: Fair warning, I'm still going to vote against spending a single dime, even if it's for South Carolina.

Colbert Busch said: “We have to get our fiscal house in order.”

She meant: Did that sound enough like Mark to get me elected?

Reach Brian Hicks at and catch his online chat at 11 a.m. today.