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Mark Sanford’s Political Redemption Is Complete

Mark Sanford

Mark Sanford, the Congressman turned Governor of South Carolina who saw his national political future ruined after a secret trip to Argentina to visit a mistress only to turn around and run for his old Congressional seat in a Special Election and win, is running unopposed for re-election this year:

Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., appears to have completed an 18-month transformation from irresistible joke to immovable incumbent.

As governor, he became a staple of late night comedians in 2009 when he famously disappeared from the Statehouse to visit his mistress in Argentina while his staff told reporters he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Last year, he staged an improbable comeback, running for the U.S. House seat he had held before being elected governor. An underdog at the outset,  he ultimately won a special election, beating out Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of comedian Steven Colbert.

Sanford has no opposition for re-election in either the GOP primary or the  general election in November. March 30 was the filing deadline for South Carolina candidates andnone of either party filed in Sanford’s district. As the National Review points out, the only remaining threat to Sanford would be a late filing by an independent candidate.

As I said at the time that Sanford won the Special Election against Stephen Colbert’s sister, the fact that Sanford won wasn’t too much of a surprise given the fact that he had represented the district before Tim Scott, and that this district has been in Republican hands for more than 30 years. In retrospect, Sanford’s biggest test last year was the Republican primary, which he won after a runoff election that really wasn’t much of a contest. If he was going t be seriously challenged this time around, it would have been in the primary. More importantly, if Sanford was going to be vulnerable at any point, it would be in this first General Election after he won the seat. The fact that no Republican even bothered to step up to challenge him is an indication that he would have likely been unbeatable.

It’s unlikely that Sanford will ever return the national prominence he once had, or that he would ever seriously be thought of as a Presidential or Vice-Presidential nominee as he was prior to the whole “Appalachian Trail” fiasco, but he seems fine with that. Having been in Congress  just under a year now, he’s taken up the role of the fiscally conservative back-bencher that he had when he was in Congress. And the voters of the 1st District seem just fine with that.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    Not to nitpick…but if it’s

    …unlikely that Sanford will ever return the national prominence he once had, or that he would ever seriously be thought of as a Presidential or Vice-Presidential nominee as he was prior to the whole “Appalachian Trail” fiasco…

    then by definition his redemption is partial and not complete.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  2. ernieyeball says:

    I am loath to think that legally imposed term limits can fix whatever ails our political system. The only effect term limits would have is to restrict my political freedom to vote for a sitting office holder no matter how long they’ve served.
    It’s not who runs for reelection, the problems lie with those who throw their dicks in the ring in the first place.
    If Republicans want a National Voter ID system to combat election fraud hallucinations then others can demand that citizens be administered a Morals Test before they are allowed on ballots.

    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/culture/interactive-psychology-quiz/8315/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  3. ernieyeball says:

    @ernieyeball:…dicks… …hats…

    No more edit on Safari?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  4. grumpy realist says:

    What a bunch of pious frauds these guys are. If Republicans really cared so much about “family” and “morals” as they keep yowling about, they’d kick this guy to the curb.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  5. legion says:

    Having been in Congress just under a year now, he’s taken up the role of the fiscally conservative back-bencher that he had when he was in Congress. And the voters of the 1st District seem just fine with that.

    If they’re happy letting a guy who walked out on – literally – every single shred of responsibility he had in the world, just to sneak off to another continent to get some action, behind his wife’s back, without even the basic common sense to imagine the absence of the state’s Governor _might_ just be noticed, well, they’ll get the representation they deserve, I suppose.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  6. gVOR08 says:

    Once again IOKIYAR triumphs.

    @grumpy realist:

    If Republicans really cared so much about “family” and “morals” as they keep yowling about, they’d kick this guy to the curb.

    They do care. But as objects of religious veneration, distant and unobtainable.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The Church of the Second Chance has declared him undead. OK, fine, he has redeemed himself in the eyes of his district. I wonder if these same people would reconsider their loathing of Elliot Spitzer or Anthony Weiner?

    Naaaahhhhh, I didn’t think so.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  8. beth says:

    Many people I’ve talked to here just held their noses and voted for him even though Colbert Busch was a fairly moderate Dem. I’m beginning to think the Republicans could run a convicted murdered for that seat and they’d win. However, there hasn’t been nearly a week gone by that I don’t read about Sanford having some kind of meeting here in the district about some issue or the other. He recently came out against a huge tax break given to Cebelas to build a store here and held meetings with some small business owners in the area. He seems to be pretty involved in what’s going on in his district and while I don’t agree with his politics, I have to give him credit for that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  9. Pinky says:

    Shame on everyone in the district.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. Tillman says:

    Isn’t this a good thing? Sex scandals make for dumb reasons to lose political office in the first place (unless it’s, like, rape or something legitimately against the law like soliciting a prostitute). The only thing most people complained about was a family values guy being hypocritical, and hypocrisy is overrated as a vice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  11. Pinky says:

    @Tillman: You’re saying this like it’s a reference to some agreed-upon societal norm, as if expecting personal honor from an elected official is an anomaly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  12. ernieyeball says:

    @Pinky:..and hypocrisy is overrated as a vice.

    I thought he was auditioning to write for Letterman…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. Andre Kenji says:

    @Tillman: His trip to South America was completely bogus. I don´t see any justification for the Brazilian leg of his trip, much more for the Argentinian trip. He was using tax payer money to see his mistress.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  14. Kari Q says:

    @Tillman:

    Sex scandals make for dumb reasons to lose political office in the first place

    I agree with this, but this wasn’t the part about it that ever bothered me. I was disturbed that the governor of a state would leave without letting anyone know how to get in touch with him if there was an emergency. It indicated a casualness and lack of interest in his responsibility as an elected official that was very disturbing.

    While the whole “Where is Sanford?” coverage was going on, and before we knew where he actually was (I swear!), I said “I don’t care if he went to Brazil to visit his secret mistress, state officials should know how to get in touch with him!” So close!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  15. Tillman says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    He was using tax payer money to see his mistress.

    @Kari Q:

    I was disturbed that the governor of a state would leave without letting anyone know how to get in touch with him if there was an emergency. It indicated a casualness and lack of interest in his responsibility as an elected official that was very disturbing.

    See, these are the parts of his scandal that are honestly scandalous, but they’re not the parts most people choose to focus on when discussing it. It’s not the abdication of responsibility or the use of state funds for personal gain that gets hits, it’s the [exotic] infidelity.

    You don’t need to frame something like this as “political redemption” in the case of what is pretty basic (and somewhat benign) corruption and graft.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  16. bill says:

    @ernieyeball: freudian slip? nice.
    @beth: well, who was he running against aside from a joke? speaking of jokes, is al franken in trouble too?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  17. Andre Kenji says:

    @Tillman:

    1-) In a PERSONAL level I don´t have so much sympathy for men that abandon their families so that they can live with their mistress. That´s not a good situation for their wives and their children.

    There is the additional problem that Jenny Sanford was widely respected at her own right, and that´s a factor.

    2-) I was living in São Paulo in 2004, when the mayor of the city lost her reelection bid after divorcing a very popular Senator and then marrying an Argentinian guy, and I can say that all politics is personal..

    Even in France both Sarkozy and Hollande lost popular support due to their messy personal lives.

    what is pretty basic (and somewhat benign) corruption and graft.

    I would not say that. And I´m a Brazilian: to us, corruption and graft are things of life.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Pinky: To some degree, personal honor among elected officials–while it would be a nice trait for them to share–may well be an anomaly. Personal honor can easily be separated from responsibilities to the society as administrators of graft, or whatever it is that politicians actually do.

    As a friend of mine says, “I expect politicians to be venal and self-serving, it helps me anticipate how they will govern.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. Pinky says:

    I don’t think we can separate personal morals from public morals. In my experience, it’s rare to find someone with a flaw in only one of those areas. Anyway, I wouldn’t want a dishonorable person serving me, even if he managed to be dishonorable only in his personal life.

    I know that some people were more troubled by the possible illegality of his actions, but for me the deal was already broken. The rest is legal interpretation of laws I’ve never read.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  20. stonetools says:

    Sanford: “I know I have sinned, but God has forgiven me and put my sin under the blood of JAYSUS! Now vote for me and I promise to protect the rich, kick the poors, and keep blacks and women in their place.”

    South Carolina electorate: “Alrighty then! Praise his name!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  21. gVOR08 says:

    @Pinky: I kind of liked Jefferson, Eisenhower, FDR, JFK, and Bill Clinton. I’d have hated to lose them over stuff irrelevant to their job. Harding, LBJ and Reagan I’ll give you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  22. grumpy realist says:

    I was more ticked off by Sanford’s kiting off without letting anyone know where he was. Total irresponsibility. If Sanford had wanted to take vacations on the sly he should have resigned his position, saying he couldn’t deal with the requirements of the position.

    Imagine a Fortune 400 company whose CEO vanished without a way to reach him–the stock would immediately fall like a lead balloon.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  23. Tillman says:

    @Pinky:

    I don’t think we can separate personal morals from public morals.

    I think we can, but I don’t imagine it as an absolute separation. I don’t detest making value judgments on politicians – Lord knows I do it all the time – I detest political machines routinizing a basic response to certain behaviors despite any context. Anthony Weiner’s [first] sexting scandal is a good example here. I’d look disfavorably on any man who flirted with other women while married, but I wouldn’t say he’d have to quit his job because of it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0