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So the rumor is true …

Former S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford confirmed to CNN that he is engaged to his longtime girlfriend Maria Belen Chapur – news which spread like wildfire last weekend after a report surfaced in an Argentinean newspaper.

“Yes, we are engaged, and I’m both happy and excited for what that means,” Sanford told CNN.  “I have long expressed my feelings for her, she’s a wonderful person. My closest friends have met and love her, and I look forward to introducing her to still many more that have yet to do so.”

Good for Sanford … given the depths of insanity he plunged the state of South Carolina into during the summer of 2009 (a.k.a. the “Summer of the Luv Gov”), it’s nice to know that something good has come out of all that craziness … for somebody.  And let’s be honest: Sanford may have endured a lot of (self-inflicted) brain damage to get to this point, but his future wife represents a major upgrade in the arm candy department.

Chapur is blessed, people …

As we learned from several paparazzi pics snapped shortly after Sanford left office, Maria is built like a brick barnyard (here and here) … and our guess is the 44-year-old hottie is giving the 52-year-old former governor all he can handle.  Come to think of it, that’s probably why he was so eager to commit political suicide in an effort to advance their relationship – which began in 2001 after the pair met at an open air dance at a resort in Uruguay.

Yeah … those are definitely some bumps we wouldn’t mind grinding up against …

But who is Chapur?  Seriously … she doesn’t even have her own Wikipedia page (receiving a mere two paragraphs on a page that outlines Sanford’s 2009 scandal).  Is there anything to this chick other than a bangin’ Argentinean bod?

Mark Sanford

The former governor’s friends certainly think so …

“She is a cultured, educated and sophisticated woman,” said a friend of Sanford’s who has spent extensive amounts of time with the couple over the last few years (remember, they never really stopped dating).

“She speaks four languages, comes from a well-respected family in Argentina and to be perfectly honest (she) never really needed anything from him,” the governor’s buddy continued, noting that Chapur was “not your typical mistress – even though that was the label (the media) hung on her.”

Of course most of Sanford’s friends pin the blame for the media’s less-than-flattering portrayal of Chapur on former S.C. First Lady Jenny Sanford – who was complimentary of Chapur on the record (calling her “pretty” in one interview) but apparently much more incisive off the record.

“She ratted him out when he left the state (in 2009),” one friend of Sanford’s explains.  “And she’s the one who played up this ‘mistress’ angle.”

Anyway … as the title of this post suggests “all’s well that ends well,” right?  Right?

Well yes … assuming this story is really over (and it may not be).  As we noted in a report last August, “many have speculated that Sanford establishing a more formal relationship with Chapur could be a prelude to the re-launching of his once-promising political career.”

Hmmmmm … could we be viewing the first bars of such a prelude?

Sanford did not immediately respond to our request for a comment on this story … and those close to him say they don’t have a clue whether he has any future political plans.  Obviously if he does,  he would face a high hurdle … at least in South Carolina.

“He’s got a terminal case of narcissism,” one veteran Palmetto political operative told FITS.  “And everybody knows it.”

At a bizarre, rambling press conference at the S.C. State House three years ago, Sanford admitted that he had been unfaithful to his wife and that he had lied to his family, his staff and the citizens of South Carolina about his whereabouts.  Days later, just when it appeared the scandal had died down, Sanford granted an ill-fated interview with the Associated Press in which he called Chapur his “soul mate,” admitted “crossing lines” with other women.

It was very, very awkward to watch …

Perhaps not surprisingly, Jenny Sanford wound up publicly exiting the governor’s mansion and divorcing him – turning the role of scorned spouse into a cottage industry in the process.  Sanford was also very nearly impeached after it was revealed that his Commerce Department spent tax dollars on a South American “economic development” trip during which he visited Chapur.

Can he overcome all of that?

We don’t know … but we may be about to find out.