After a bizarre string of days in which South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s whereabouts were unknown, The State newspaper broke the news that the 2012 presidential hopeful was in Argentina rather than walking the Appalachian Trail as his staff had told reporters. And then, as has been so many times before in American politics, Sanford confessed to having an affair in a nationally televised press conference.
The political fallout of Sanford’s infidelity will likely not have an immediate national ripple effect: South Carolina is firmly conservative–though Sanford’s predecessor was a Democrat–and if Sanford were to step down, a Democrat would be hard-pressed to replace him in office. But because Sanford was a Republican governor, and because he had been a finalist to serve as John McCain’s vice presidential nominee, Sanford’s admission (along with Senator Ensign’s admission last week of having cheated on his wife), two prominent young Republicans have now fallen from grace.
The big winner, then–if a winner can come from such a situation–would appear to be Mitt Romney, whose desire to oppose President Obama in 2012 is quite clear, and now, a little easier to envision.