Sanford’s poor odds

SANFORD’S POOR ODDS…. Even if South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) had engaged in a regular ol’ extra-marital affair, the pressure on him to resign would be considerable. South Carolina is one of the most socially conservative states in the nation, Sanford has always positioned himself as a Bible-quoting champion of “family values,” and even “routine” adultery would ruin his credibility with the state’s political establishment.

But it’s Sanford’s specific and aggravating details* that make his survival significantly less likely. Instead of a regular ol’ affair, this governor used tax-dollars to see his mistress, and then left the country for a week, ignoring his responsibilities, to visit with his lover in Argentina.

Early yesterday, Sanford’s office said the governor would not consider stepping down. As the day dragged on, it became apparent that the governor may not have a choice.

Fellow Republicans issued sharp calls for the disgraced Sanford to step down — a move he indicated he was not considering. And at least one campaign donor was drafting a letter asking for his money back.

One county GOP leader said the governor “talked about how our leaders have stepped away from our core values, and said one thing on the campaign trail or out in the public and did something different in the background.”

Glenn McCall, a local representative to the Republican National Committee, said the GOP “can recover from this if we hold him accountable and the governor does the right thing and resigns for the sake of the party.”

The state Commerce Department records indicated that Sanford’s taxpayer-financed trip to Argentina last year cost the public more than $8,000. The governor said yesterday he would reimburse the state, but Republican state Sen. Jake Knotts, a longtime Sanford foe, said that wouldn’t be good enough. Knotts called for an independent investigation by the state’s Law Enforcement Division into Sanford’s extracurricular activities.

Which helps point to what may be the biggest impediment to Sanford’s political survival: his complete lack of allies. The governor wasn’t especially popular with lawmakers in either party before he secretly left the country to visit with his foreign mistress, and by any reasonable measure, Sanford has just done an awful job as South Carolina’s chief executive, independent of his obvious personal shortcomings.

Ordinarily, in a situation like this, a governor might a) circle the wagons; and/or b) point to his record of on-the-job successes and hope they overshadow his personal failings.

In this case, though, Sanford has run out of friends and can’t rely on his record.

* fixed