POLITICS
02/19/2013 09:49 am ET Updated Feb 19, 2013

Mark Sanford: 'I Absolutely Failed In My Personal Life And In My Marriage,' Not With Taxpayers

Former South Carolina governor and GOP congressional candidate Mark Sanford continued to confront his scandal-plagued past on Tuesday, admitting failures but arguing that they shouldn't concern the voters he is hoping to serve.

“If we live long enough, we’re going to fail at something and I absolutely failed in my personal life and my marriage, but one place I didn’t ever fail was with the taxpayers,” Sanford told NBC's "Today" show. “If you were to look at my 20 years in politics, what you’d see is a fairly remarkable consistency in trying to watch out for the taxpayers.”

Sanford served out his second term in 2010 amid a national spectacle created after he disappeared from the state, supposedly to hike the "Appalachian Trail." It eventually came to light that he was actually visiting a mistress in Argentina. Sanford admitted infidelity at the time, and the ensuing scrutiny of his leadership finally led the South Carolina General Assembly to censure the governor for misuse of state travel funds allegedly used to carry out the affair.

Asked if the ethics issues arising from the scandal undercut his claims that he hadn't failed taxpayers, the ex-governor claimed argued that it wasn't so simple.

"There was no admission of guilt with any of that," Sanford said. "It's a much longer story.”

Instead, Sanford attempted to drive home the message that he was needed in Congress to address issues of spending and debt.

“I could come up with a lot of merit badges that point to one thing, which is, many people talk about our spending problem in Washington, all too few try to do something about it,” he said. "We are at a tipping point as a civilization, and if we don’t get our financial house in order, there are going to be unbelievable consequences for the very folks watching our show right now.”

But Sanford didn't deny that there was some "hope for redemption" as he seeks to return to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served from 1995 to 2001.

This week, Sanford rolled out his first campaign ad, in which he sought to paint himself as a fiscal conservative seeking forgiveness for his past mistakes.

Sanford is running in a jam-packed GOP primary of 16 candidates. The winner will face one of two Democrats, which include Elizabeth Colbert Busch, sister of comedian Stephen Colbert.

CORRECTION: This article originally listed Elizabeth Colbert Busch's first name as Stephen. The error has been fixed.

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