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Can Mark Sanford Stabilize?



Up until this week, S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford had caught every break in his political comeback.

Let’s recap those fortuitous moments, shall we?

Break No. 1 – S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley decided to appoint U.S. Rep. Tim Scott to the Senate seat vacated in January by Jim DeMint – creating an unexpected opening in Sanford’s backyard.

Break No. 2 – Sixteen “Republican” candidates wound up running for the open South Carolina first congressional district seat. This created a race in which most of these candidates were either battling for the No. 2 position (behind Sanford) or battling to be heard at all. End result? Sanford was insulated from a lot of the attacks that might have otherwise come his way because the other candidates were too busy attacking each other.

Break No. 3 – Former Charleston County councilman Curtis Bostic – the candidate who emerged from the GOP primary as the “anti-Sanford” – was a fiscal liberal with a host of skeletons in his closet. He also clearly wasn’t prepared for the political sprint of a two-week runoff race against the former governor – squandering what could have been a golden opportunity to beat Sanford at his most vulnerable moment.

Break No. 4 – Sanford’s Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, also squandered an opportunity – allowing Sanford to define their May 7 special election along ideological grounds (a winning formula in a district with a heavy “Republican” lean).

In other words, everything that needed to happen for Sanford to pull off a surprising return to politics (remember, his polling numbers were terrible heading into this race) had happened.

Until this week …

On a dime, everything that had been working for Sanford turned against him. A race revolving around bread-and-butter fiscal issues quickly reverted to the train wreck that is Mark Sanford’s personal life – a dynamic the former governor was hoping to avoid (and which he has handled poorly in the past).

In fact less than 24 hours before the trespassing story broke, we wrote about an internal Sanford poll that showed him with a slim lead over Colbert-Busch.

“(Colbert-Busch) needs some unforced errors on the part of the Sanford campaign,” a source familiar with the poll told FITS.

Well she got one … and then some.

While it seems pretty clear that Sanford is receiving a measure of payback from his embittered ex-wife, Jenny Sanford, that doesn’t change the fact he exercised incredibly poor judgment by violating the terms of the couple’s 2010 divorce and trespassing (repeatedly, according to her) on her property.

Also … considering the humiliating international spectacle he put her through in 2009, is anybody really surprised she’s still pissed off at him?

Of course not …

So … can Sanford survive the damage done by his “No Trespassing” scandal?

Maybe, maybe not. If this is the extent of his problems, then he could very well overcome it – particularly now that the national press is picking up on the “bitter ex-wife” angle. However if another shoe drops (and there is plenty of discussion regarding that possibility as it relates to the Sanfords’ “sealed” divorce files), it could very well prove fatal to his comeback bid.

As of this writing our readers are split on the question, with 50.3 percent (511 votes) saying the scandal is fatal to Sanford’s candidacy and 49.7 percent (504 votes) saying it’s something he can survive.