Other Woman Follies

A day after absorbing the basic news that Mark Sanford had won the Republican nomination for his old gig representing SC’s 1st District in Congress, the chattering classes shifted focus to the election night surprise that was a lot bigger than anything in the results: the counter-intuitive appearance of Sanford’s Argentinian fiancee, Maria Belen Chapur, at his victory celebration. You might have expected her either to show up in the district earlier or to stay out of sight until May 7’s special general election. So what’s up with that?

Sanford himself told as least one reporter that Chapur “surprised” him by showing up at the event. If so, it must have been an even bigger surprise to Sanford’s politically powerful ex-wife, Jenny, to turn on the tube and see The Other Woman next to her sons and her ex yukking it up on the revival of the political career she did so much to craft and finance.

Accident or not, some pundits and “experts” actually think this will be good for Sanford’s campaign, per this report from the Charleston Post & Courier‘s Schuyler Kropf:

College of Charleston political scientist Kendra Stewart said Chapur’s sudden presence probably helped much more than it hurt.

“This would have been very risky at the beginning of the campaign, but he had a pretty solid win,” she said, “which sends a message that voters have moved on and gotten over the affair.”

That’s interesting. Voters will decide they have “moved on” because Sanford’s fiancee shows up after the runoff votes were already cast? And he’s saying it wasn’t even planned?

Additionally, Stewart said Chapur’s showing, coupled with the widespread media coverage of her face afterward, also helps him with female voters, a crucial demographic that Democratic opponent Elizabeth Colbert Busch hopes to claim in the May 7 election.

“It’s easy to hate the ‘other woman’ when you don’t see her or know anything about her,” Stewart said. “This gives a human face to the other woman. It will make it easier to identify with her and more difficult to judge her.”

Maybe so, again assuming Chapur’s appearance didn’t blow up some agreement with Jenny Sanford, who could probably win and almost certainly lose the general election for Mark with just a few public statements. If the nice little family picture on the tube was indeed spontaneous–or worse yet, a deliberate ploy to “turn the page” just a bit prematurely–you can bet Sanford was quickly on the phone with his ex-wife with a new round of begging.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.