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bauer-bold

As much as we hate to admit it, S.C. Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer has once again surprised us with a bold, brilliant political move.

By taking his name out of the running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2010 (should S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford resign), Bauer has effectively positioned himself as the one person in this whole saga who is actually looking out for the people of South Carolina. In the process, he’s made his would-be political opponents in 2010 look like opportunistic hacks who care only about their personal political futures.

Is Bauer for real? Sources close to the Lt. Governor say “absolutely.” Is he sincere in his intent? We highly doubt it.

Of course, Bauer’s sincerity (or lack thereof) doesn’t change the fact that his announcement puts him in the enviable position of being perceived as politically pure – thus eroding some of the ground beneath Sanford’s feet.

How so?

Well, since admitting to an extramarital affair last week, Sanford has reportedly been propped up by a shaky alliance of his staunchest political allies and the empire of Richard Quinn and Associates, which manages the political destiny of S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster.

McMaster, for reasons surpassing understanding, is also widely viewed as a 2010 gubernatorial prospect.

Not wanting Bauer to gain a foothold in the Governor’s Office prior to the 2010 election, McMaster and the rest of the Quinn stable of clients have been downplaying talk of investigations and calls for Sanford to step down. Particularly vocal in that process has been U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, arguably Quinn’s most influential client.

With Bauer now removing himself from the 2010 picture (again, should Sanford step down), does Quinn remove that prop that’s been helping hold the governor up?

If it does, Sanford could be in real trouble.

Of course, as brilliant as Bauer’s latest move is, his political team has been decidedly less-than-stealth in executing its strategy up to this point. They have also alienated some powerful potential allies with ill-advised and downright dumb tactics aimed at inducing a particular response.

So how will Bauer’s latest move play out?

Assuming his team can keep from coughing up the ball, it could be one of the smartest political decisions we’ve seen in some time.