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Will Mark Sanford's sex scandal kill his campaign — or save it?
In a new ad, the former South Carolina governor tells voters he learned from the affair that ended his marriage. Will that help his bid for a seat in Congress?
Mark Sanford's tearful 2009 announcement: An image not easily forgotten.
Mark Sanford's tearful 2009 announcement: An image not easily forgotten. Davis Turner/Getty Images
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ormer South Carolina governor Mark Sanford isn't running away from the sex scandal that destroyed his marriage and, at least temporarily, his political career, as he makes a comeback bid with a run for Congress. Sanford was a rising GOP star until he mysteriously disappeared in June 2009. He told his staff he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, but he really went on a secret trip to visit his "soulmate" in Argentina. Now, in a new campaign ad, Sanford tells voters that the tabloid nightmare he went through taught him valuable lessons that would serve him well in office. "I've experienced how none of us go through life without mistakes, but in their wake, we can learn a lot about grace, a God of second chances, and be the better for it," Sanford says in the ad. "In that light, I humbly step forward and ask for your help in changing Washington." Watch the video:


Plenty of commentators see the logic in addressing the scandal head-on. Sanford's mistress, María Belén Chapur, is now his fiancee, so there certainly was no way to avoid talking about the relationship. "I guess he had to do something like this coming out of the gates," says Tommy at The Right Sphere. "I am just wondering if jumping from cutting spending and reducing debt to the 'Hey, my bad about that whole affair thing' part will actually work or not. It didn't really do much for me."

Allahpundit at Hot Air, for one, isn't buying it. "There's shameless," he says, "there's really shameless, and then there's a guy touting his credentials on government accountability after he went AWOL as governor to visit his mistress on another continent and initially stuck taxpayers with the bill. The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin isn't buying Sanford's play for sympathy, either. "He'd like to characterize his misdeeds as 'personal,'" she says, "but they were anything but."

There is no reason taxpayers should feel obliged to put such a character back in government. It is a measure of how odd social conservatives have become that they would disown a candidate who favored gay marriage but rise to the defense of a home-wrecker and abuser of public funds. [Washington Post]

Not everyone dismisses Sanford's plea for forgiveness as a waste of breath. "It's a good ad," say Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. And that's hardly surprising, as "Sanford was always a gifted communicator on television. (It's why after spending three terms in the House he was elected governor and was talked about as a potential 2012 presidential candidate before his affair came to light.)" Obviously, there's a chance it won't work, but Sanford is clearly hoping "that by admitting his flaws and directly referencing the idea of second chances, he will be able to appeal to the Christian nature of the electorate."

There's a long history of second chances in American politics — Edwin Edwards, the former Louisiana governor, may be the most obvious — but usually the apology tour precedes the return candidacy. In Sanford’s case, it appears that they are one in the same. Of course, four years in the pace of modern American life — what with the Twitters and such — seems much longer that it once did. Sanford is banking on the fact that our famous/infamous short memories are getting shorter and shorter. [Washington Post]

Catalina Camia points out at USA Today, however, that Sanford won't linger on this issue any more than he has to. In his bid for his old House seat, up for grabs since Tim Scott was appointed to the Senate, Sanford, who has better name recognition than anyone else in the 16-candidate field for the GOP nomination, plans to rely on a message that is far more conventional, and far more appealing to the GOP rank and file.

Sanford is making his campaign about federal spending and the need to cut the size of government. He opens the ad with a knock on "Washington's math," which he says "doesn't add up." It's a message that helped get him elected to Congress three times before winning the race for governor. [USA Today]

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