WILL FORMER SC GOVERNOR ATTEMPT A POLITICAL COMEBACK?
Former S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford has repeatedly insisted that his political career is done, but the former “Luv Gov” certainly isn’t acting like a guy who has given up the ghost.
For starters he’s done the one thing political observers insisted was absolutely necessary in the event he wanted to attempt a political comeback – legitimize his love affair with Argentinean hottie Maria Belen Chapur. Sanford proposed to Chapur last week in Buenos Aires … and she accepted. The result? What was once viewed by some as a tawdry affair now looks more like the happy ending to a romance novel.
What else is Sanford doing? Working the press … like Newsday contributor Lane Filler, who encountered Sanford in a very interesting location at the 2012 Republican National Convention this week.
“I saw him coming down the escalator at the press center of the Republican National Convention in Tampa,” Filler writes of his “surprise encounter” with Sanford.
So if Sanford has no political future (and ostensibly knows it) then what exactly was he doing lurking around the press corps at the GOP convention?
Well for one thing, he was dodging speculation (from Filler) about a possible primary challenge to fiscally liberal U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham.
“I bet myself $6 that you’re going to run a primary against Sen. Graham in 2014,” Filler said to Sanford.
“That’s a bet against yourself you’re going to have to pay off, because the thought hadn’t crossed my mind,” Sanford responded.
We wrote back in January that the 52-year-old had started plotting a political comeback, although his target at that point seemed to be the woman who followed him into office – current S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley. Sanford financially supported Haley at a critical juncture of her 2010 campaign – a decision he later came to regret.
Were Sanford to contemplate challenging Graham or Haley, he would have plenty of company. Numerous Palmetto politicians, including his former chief of staff Tom Davis, U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, State Treasurer Curtis Loftis and U.S. Rep. Tim Scott have expressed interest in one (or both) of those posts – and of course many of them are also eyeing U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint’s seat in the event he decides not to seek a third term in 2016.
How would Sanford be received were he to run against Graham or Haley? Or seek an open statewide seat?
Last time we checked, his approval ratings were in the toilet – although Sanford still has $1.1 million sitting in his state campaign account (enough to mount a nice image reclamation tour). And for his many failures as a politician, Sanford never had a problem raising money.
“I do think he should run for office again,” one former Sanford staffer told us. ”If South Carolinians can forgive Newt (Gingrich) for his serial philandering, surely they can forgive Sanford for his temporary insanity – (because) obviously it wasn’t a fling.”
“His policy wasn’t perfect as governor,” the former staffer added, “but his core libertarian beliefs are what we need more of in this country.”
Others were less enthusiastic about a possible Sanford return.
“Somebody needs to step on this narcissistic worm once and for all,” one South Carolina Tea Party leader told us. ”He’s delusional if he thinks any of us are ever going to trust him again.”
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 Chapur. 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, he 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 – and was censured by state lawmakers – but he avoided impeachment.
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