Anyone introduced to South Carolina politics for the first time might have a hard time understanding how U.S. Sen. Tim Scott and U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford rose to the pinnacles of power in 2013.

While both have similar Republican, conservative philosophies, they made it to Washington via far different paths.

No black Republican anywhere in America has risen as far or as fast as Scott. After struggling as a student in North Charleston, he went on to launch a political career that progressed from Charleston County Council to the state Legislature to the U.S. House. Last year he was appointed by Gov. Nikki Haley to fill Jim DeMint's vacancy in the U.S. Senate.

At 48, Scott could be just starting a multi-decade career in Washington - if he can defend the seat in 2014.

Sanford's is the story of redemption, forgiveness and, as opponents say, a willingness by conservatives to turn a blind eye.

It took voters only about two years to forgive Sanford for his "hiking the Appalachian Trail" story while governor, sending him back to Congress in a landslide win. Sanford picked up where he left off, aligning with the deficit hawks.

And just like Scott, Sanford seems positioned for a long career.

SCHUYLER KROPF