Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.) offered one of the harshest rebukes from within the Republican Party of Mark Sanford, suggesting on Sunday that the South Carolina governor was hypocritical and had damaged the GOP at a time when the brand was already hurting.
"It's hard to quantify [the damage he has done]," said Pawlenty. "But clearly there has been damage. Any time you have leading figures who are engaged in behavior that's sad and troubling and hypocritical other people are going to look at that and say, 'Hmmm, they don't walk the walk. And so the words and the actions don't ring true."
Later in his segment on CNN's "State of the Union," Pawlenty would not push back against suggestions that Sanford had been directly derelict in his duties when he traveled to Argentina to conduct his affair. "Your staff has to be able to reach you and reach you quickly," Pawlenty said. "He should not have left the state and not allowed people to know how to contact him if something happened. That's obvious."
Both Pawlenty and Sanford have been discussed as possible contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Sanford, naturally, has dropped from that discussion after his admission of marital misconduct. Still, it was curious to see Pawlenty take a shot at his gubernatorial compatriot. Other Republicans have either avoided the Sanford topic altogether or framed the issue as a personal, not professional, miscue.
But the Minnesota Republican didn't just slap Sanford on the wrist for leaving the state to meet his mistress. He also applauded Sanford's wife for not appearing alongside him during his emotional and lengthy press conference in which he confessed to and apologized for the matter.
"It's a sad and troubling situation with Jenny and Mark Sanford. I know them. I'm proud of Jenny for her strength and her commitment to her family and keeping that family together. Frankly, I was glad to see her not standing at the press conference like many have, and kind of charting her own path. Saying, look, I'm willing to forgive him, but I'm not going to stand here and condone this in any way."