A DOSE OF REALITY…. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) has been one of the leading members of the Neo-Hooverite caucus, insisting that his economic philosophy dictates that the best thing a government can do during the economic crisis is “cut spending.”

A funny thing happens, though, when far-right philosophy runs into the real-world economy.

Just hours before the unemployment benefits fund was to run out in South Carolina, the state with the nation’s third-highest jobless rate, Gov. Mark Sanford relented Wednesday and agreed to apply for a $146 million federal loan to shore it up, after weeks of refusing to do so.

The governor’s position had drawn rebukes even from fellow Republicans in the Legislature, one of whom denounced Mr. Sanford as “heartless,” and from newspaper editorial pages. On Wednesday, The State, the daily newspaper here in Columbia, accused the governor of playing “chicken with the lives of the 77,000” who are unemployed in South Carolina.

For weeks, Sanford, a far-right economic libertarian who recently became the head of the Republican Governors Association, said he simply didn’t believe the state’s unemployment figures. South Carolina, which has one of the highest jobless rates in the nation, calculates its data the same way every other state does, but Sanford didn’t want to extend benefits because he didn’t accept the statistics.

State Senator Hugh Leatherman, the Republican chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said last week, “It’s absolutely unheard of, it’s insane, for a governor of any state not to request those [unemployment] funds. I can’t believe anybody would be this heartless, and create such a heartless act on these people.”

Remember, on a national level, Sanford is considered a “rising star” in the Republican Party, and he’s a likely presidential candidate in 2012.

The NYT noted that Sanford’s near-obsession with cutting state spending has led the Republican-dominated legislature to override most of his gubernatorial vetoes, ranging from money to expand children’s health insurance, H.I.V. prevention, and state parks.

“Up until now Mr. Sanford’s antispending stance has, if anything, appeared only to enhance his popularity in this conservative state,” the Times noted. But given the economic climate, Sanford’s opposition to unemployment benefits was not well received by the hard-hit state.

Imagine that.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.