He could have been a contender in 2012.
Now it's looking like South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford might not even make it to the end of his term. On Wednesday morning, Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer called on Sanford to step down, urging Sanford to consider the well-being of the Palmetto State. Bauer, according to the Associated Press, reiterated his offer to back out of the 2010 gubernatorial race if Sanford leaves office now.
Bauer said rumors and discussion of Sanford's impeachment could "dominate next year's legislative session instead of issues like the economy and job creation."
Bauer is the latest in a long line of Republican lawmakers urging Sanford's exit. In late June, for instance, 10 state senators said they wanted the governor gone. And on July 6, the South Carolina Republican Party voted to censure Sanford. (The party never explicitly suggested he resign.)
Still, Sanford clung to his post, claiming that he despite his moral failings, he was still fit for political office. "If the good Lord's going to make changes in your life, you've gotta stick around for the process," Sanford said.
Sanford's term as governor expires in January of 2011. "People need to take their personal, political considerations off the table and think about what's best for the state," a Bauer spokesman said in a statement yesterday.
It's been a turbulent few months for Sanford, to put it lightly. In June, Sanford vanished without a trace from the public radar; aides assured the press he was only hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Instead, Sanford, a well-liked governor with a good shot at the GOP presidential nomination in '12, was dallying in South America with a longtime Argentinian lover. Worse yet: on at least a few occasions, Sanford had funded his affair with taxpayer dough. This from a guy who earned major plaudits from conservatives for his initial rejection of federal stimulus funds. (Forget the fact that he later accepted the bulk of that money anyway.)
After a strained press conference admitting the affairs, Sanford proceeded to dig himself a nice little hole. He repeatedly referred to María Belén Chapur, whom he met in Uruguay years earlier, as a "soul mate." Then he admitted he'd "crossed the lines" with a handful of women since he'd been married. Then he consider resigning. Then he decided against it.
"Immediately after all this unfolded last week I had thought I would resign -- as I believe in the military model of leadership and when trust of any form is broken one lays down the sword," Sanford said at the time. "A long list of close friends have suggested otherwise -- that for God to really work in my life I shouldn't be getting off so lightly."
Regardless of what any higher powers think, Sanford now has Bauer to deal with, along with a cadre of angry South Carolina politicians who just want to get back to work. Maybe it's time for the governor of the Palmetto State to follow fellow disgraced Republican George Allen -- lay low, hang your head, and wait for the right opportunity to dive back into the fray.
Who will save the GOP?
The drive to revive and rebrand the Republican Party from the inside is stirring a new generation of young politicians. Here’s a look at these up-and-comers and where they might take the party.
Follow us on Twitter.