Poor Mark Sanford. He just can’t seem to help himself when it comes to finding ways to have his personal life impact his political career. You may remember him as the former South Carolina governor who said he had disappeared for a few days to hike the “old Appalachian trail” when he was really off in Argentina having an affair with the woman who is now his fiance.
To say that Sanford’s wife, Jenny, was not amused would be an understatement.
But as so many politicians do who are shamed by less-than-stellar conduct in their personal lives, he laid low for a few years and recently announced his comeback bid for an open congressional seat.
Things were actually looking up for Sanford — he won the Republican primary run-off in a heavily Republican district, one that Mitt Romney won handily with 58 percent of the vote last fall. So, even though he was a little behind in the polling against his Democratic opponent, the odds were looking pretty good for him to be moving to Washington, D.C.
That is, until his ex-wife Jenny spilled the beans about how Sanford hasn’t been abiding by the terms of their divorce agreement, including unapproved visits with his sons at their mother’s house. Jenny Sanford found out when she caught Mark sneaking out of the house by cell phone light. Oops.
So why is any of this relevant? Why should we care about the personal intrigue of a once-married couple just because the one causing the intrigue is running for elective office? Lots of people would say it doesn’t matter. After all, there’s been plenty of political forgiveness for the likes of Eliot Spitzer, Newt Gingrich, former President Bill Clinton, and other notable politicians who have had their share of personal indiscretions made public.
It matters because the GOP, who wanted Sanford for his high name recognition, have essentially said, “Enough is enough.” Sanford has been cut off from the National Republican Congressional Committee coffers, and other financial backers have closed their wallets, too. And we all know what you get with a political campaign that has no funds — a loser.
But it is so not like the GOP to roll over on a national race. Their actions pretty much ensure that Democratic opponent Elizabeth Colbert Busch (yes, her brother is that Colbert) will take the seat — something we know GOP would rather not have happen.
But I see another possibility. I say Republicans are setting the stage for South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to run for that seat in 2014. The GOP needs more women in the House of Representatives — right now, there are only 24 Republican women out of 435 congressman. Not a great number. And the GOP is well-aware if its own “woman problems.” So, if they sit back, and don’t object too much to Colbert Busch, she might win and then she’d be a Democrat in a heavily Republican district in 2014 that the GOP can try to oust with their own high-profile woman candidate — Haley.
I know that’s a lot of “ifs.” But one thing is clear — the GOP always plays the long game and if exploiting Sanford’s less than exemplary domestic life as a way to focus on winning that congressional seat in 2014 is what they have to do, you know the plan is already in place.
See — sometimes politicians’ personal lives are politically relevant!
And just for a little humor, here is Stephen Colbert on how the crew of Morning Joe forced him to support his sister for Congress:
Image via Wikimedia Commons