It's hard to believe that at one point, former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford was one of those names that credible people batted back and forth as a bona fide GOP White House contender. But that was all before Sanford abruptly vanished from public view in June 2009, supposedly to seek the solace of the Appalachian Trail, only to re-emerge and confess to an extramarital affair with an Argentinean woman. From there, Sanford resigned as the chairman of the Republican Governors Association and survived an impeachment plot to finish out his term in the South Carolina Statehouse, where he was succeeded by Nikki Haley.
Now Sanford, apparently, wants to get back into politics. This week, he will once again offer himself to the voters of South Carolina, this time in a bid to return to his former seat representing the state's 1st District in the U.S. House of Representatives. As Cameron Joseph of The Hill reports, Sanford's seemingly unlikely bid isn't shaping up to be a long-shot:
Sanford’s near-universal name recognition, his reputation for fundraising prowess, a staunchly conservative fiscal record and the potential for a crowded field could make him tough to beat.
While there are a number of other credible candidates jumping into the race, none are nearly as well-known as Sanford.
With a fast-approaching early-spring election, it might be hard for some candidates to raise enough money to gain attention from voters.
Most South Carolina Republicans expect Sanford’s name recognition to carry him through an initial March 19 vote and into a GOP runoff election in early April.
The true test will be whether the opponent who makes it into that runoff against Sanford will have the money and name identification to beat him in a two-week sprint to the final vote on April 2.
And over at The Weekly Standard, Michael Warren reckons that Sanford's "reputation...as a libertarian-minded budget cutter" will "appeal to the well-organized Tea Party and conservative grassroots of the [1st] district."
Sanford's decision to re-enter politics will likely lead to a lot of media specuation about the potential comebacks of other similarly disgraced politicians. Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D), for example, is in need of a new gig, now that he's ended his own tenure as a talk-show host at Current TV. And former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) -- who hasn't nearly done as much time atoning as Spitzer -- is already starting to attract speculation over his possible return to politics. (A secondary driver is the fact that the field to replace New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- a job Weiner was believed to covet -- is starting to take shape.)
Of course, Sanford's scandal was of a slightly different vintage, featuring neither prostitutes nor embarrassing lies over Tweeted pictures of crotches. While Spitzer gets referred to as "Client 9" and Weiner can't escape the image of his ... well, you know ... Sanford's sexploits are more frequently characterized as the misadventures of a hopeless romantic.
Who's his likely opposition? According to Joseph, the toughest challenges are likely to come from State Rep. Chip Limehouse and State Sen. Larry Grooms. Both Limehouse and Grooms have had long political careers in the Palmetto state, serving since 1995 and 1997, respectively. Grooms briefly flirted with a gubernatorial run in 2010. In addition, Joseph reports that Teddy Turner, son of media mogul Ted Turner and current high school teacher,
will self-fund his own candidacy run with the assistance of a former member of Sanford's inner circle.
CORRECTION: While self-funding your own quixotic campaign is not, typically, the best use of your money, I have since been contacted by Turner's campaign, who tell me that contrary to reports, Turner will not be self-funding this effort. I regret the mischaracterization.
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