FORMER GOVERNOR CONTEMPLATING RETURN TO POLITICS
His approval ratings are in the toilet and his credibility has been shot (perhaps permanently) with most South Carolina voters … but former S.C. Governor and current FOX News analyst Mark Sanford is apparently undeterred.
He’s plotting a political comeback whether the Palmetto political scene likes it or not … or is ready for it or not.
FITS has spoken with numerous sources – literally dozens of people ranging from high-level elected officials to low-level precinct captains – who have received calls from the former governor in recent days. And while Sanford hasn’t specified which office he’s seeking, he’s made it clear to each of these sources that he is planning to run again.
What else has Sanford reportedly made clear to the people he’s called?
“He hates Nikki Haley,” one prominent GOP elected official told us. “Hates her, hates her, hates her.”
Sanford, 51, has privately criticized Haley to various confidants in the past – specifically expressing regret at having financially supported her at a critical juncture of her 2010 campaign. He took those concerns public earlier this month in a scathing piece written by John Fund of The National Review.
“I wonder if she’ll be more of a liability to (Mitt) Romney than she is an asset,” Sanford said in describing the impact of Haley’s presidential endorsement, adding that “she’s taken her eye off the ball and lost focus.”
That’s true … in fact it took Haley just one year in office to become as unpopular as Sanford was when he left office after eight years. And as much as Sanford experienced occasional lapses in ideological purity, Haley has turned selling out her principles into an art form.
But does voter frustration with Haley – who is struggling to maintain the support of even a majority of GOP voters – present an opening for Sanford? Or are both of them pretty much screwed?
For those of you who have suppressed the memories, Sanford became a national spectacle during the summer of 2009 after he dramatically confessed his extramarital affair with Maria Belen Chapur, his Latin lover. The governor – who compounded his problem by oversharing about his feelings – nearly lost his job as a result of an ensuing ethics investigation into his travel practices.
Among other abuses, Sanford failed to report dozens of private flights, obtained improper upgrades to first class seats on numerous state trips and misused the state plane for personal and political purposes. Most damagingly, Sanford’s Commerce Department spent tax dollars on a 2008 South American “economic development” trip during which the governor had a romantic rendezvous with Chapur.
Sanford ended up paying $74,000 in fines associated with his various violations – but he avoided impeachment.
Sanford has repeatedly stated in the past that his political career is over … statements which we think are accurate. Of course anything is possible … as this topsy-turvy 2012 election cycle has taught us.
This website has always had a love-hate relationship with Sanford, whom our founding editor worked under for four years. As for our readers? They’re not fans … in fact, according to the results of an unscientific August 2011 survey, 794 FITS readers (or 70 percent who responded) said they would not consider voting for Sanford if he ran for office again. Only 336 (30 percent) said they would.
Those are long odds …and they’re reflected in polling data.
Having said that, Sanford does have over $1 million sitting in his gubernatorial campaign account – and access to plenty of cash on top of that. He also has the potential to chart an interesting narrative – the story of a principled reformer who spent six years fighting the good fight in Washington, D.C. only to lose his way during his second term as governor.
Could he find his way again? And if so … could people trust him?
Again, it’s painfully obvious that a “Sanford Comeback” is a long shot … but in fairness to him so was his 1994 Congressional win and his 2002 gubernatorial victory.
Needless to say we’ll be keeping an eye on the “Sanford comeback” as details emerge. In the meantime, rather than ask the same poll question we asked back in August, we figured we’d put a different spin on things. So vote in our survey below, and post your thoughts in our comments section below …