IT CERTAINLY DOESN’T HELP…. It looks like all of the major dailies had the same idea: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s (R) sex scandal isn’t just awful for him and his family, it’s also more bad news for a political party that’s already been knocked down.

New York Times:

Republicans were just starting to breathe a little easier….

Then Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, a fiscal conservative seen by many Republicans as an attractive standard-bearer for the next presidential campaign, went missing. Worse, he returned. His confession on Wednesday that he had been in Argentina with a woman not his wife — and not hiking the Appalachian Trail as his staff had said Monday — was another jolt of bad news for a party that has struggled to get off the ropes all year.

Washington Post:

Sanford’s story is more than personal. For a Republican Party down on its luck, the governor’s disappearance and subsequent rambling apology to his wife, his family, his close friends and all the people of South Carolina draw more unwelcome publicity to a party that needs but cannot seem to get any good news. […]

For Republicans, the long winter continues. “It’s bad news,” said Peter Wehner, a former Bush White House adviser, of the back-to-back confessions by Sanford and Ensign. “It reflects on them individually, but it reflects on the party. The Democrats are vulnerable on a number of areas, including scandals. They’ve had their own on a range of issues. But if you accept as I do that the Republican brand is hurt, this does more damage to it.”

LA Times:

Mark Sanford’s extramarital excursion to Latin America is just the latest — albeit the most lurid — in a series of setbacks that have plagued Republicans as they struggle to recast the party and promote a new generation of national leaders.

Wall Street Journal:

[T]he GOP, still struggling after losing control of Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008, was left to wonder when it would stop seeing its attempts to attract positive attention trumped by embarrassments.

It’s best not to exaggerate this too much. In all likelihood, the Republican Party “brand” has already just about bottomed out, and while Sanford is yet another embarrassment, it probably won’t make matters significantly worse.

But it certainly doesn’t help, either. Every time the Republicans start to think they’re finally ready to get back on track, they suffer another humiliation.

We’ll see what kind of long-term implications these scandals have for the GOP, but I suspect the real lasting impact will be the loss of a key party issue: “If Republicans talk about family values, people will roll their eyes,” said Matthew Dowd, a onetime adviser to President George W. Bush. He added, “It’s hard to say [voters are] going to trust Republicans on it.”

You think?

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.