Feature

Sanford: Could he cost the GOP a safe seat?

Mark Sanford is making a comeback in South Carolina, and “the GOP establishment is worried.”

Mark Sanford is making a comeback in South Carolina, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post, and “the GOP establishment is worried.” The former governor is an electoral liability, having disappeared for a week in 2009 while supposedly hiking the Appalachian Trail but actually visiting his mistress in Argentina. Sanford divorced his wife and, when his term ended, “went slinking into the wilderness.” But just two years later, he’s back, having won the GOP primary last week for a vacant congressional seat. Sanford seems to be running “on a platform of personal redemption,” said Jonathan S. Tobin in CommentaryMagazine.com, prominently displaying his Argentinian lover—now fiancée—and asking voters to forgive him. But the state’s many evangelical conservatives remain “disgusted” by how he humiliated his wife, and if they sit out his race against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, Republicans could lose “a seat that their party shouldn’t even have to worry about.”

Sanford will probably win, baggage and all, said Peter Roff in USNews.com. South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District is “one of the most reliably Republican in the South.” Sanford won it himself three times as a congressman in the 1990s, and Mitt Romney beat Obama there last year by 18 points. Despite Sanford’s scandalous past, conservatives want no part of Colbert Busch, the sister of left-wing comedian Stephen Colbert. If Republicans simply turn out to vote, this race won’t even be close.

Sanford’s quick comeback should come as no real surprise, said Danny Hayes in WashingtonPost.com. Americans have made a habit of forgiving philandering politicians like Sanford, Newt Gingrich, and Bill Clinton. A recent study found that 73 percent of the 237 House legislators implicated in financial, corruption, sex, or political scandals between 1973 and 2010 survived to run in the next election, and 60 percent “ultimately found themselves back in Congress.” That’s because most Americans now believe in “a forgiving God” rather than a judgmental one, said Naomi Schaefer Riley in the New York Post. When politicians are caught with their pants down today, they invariably make a show of asking God for forgiveness. Their mention of the Almighty usually buys them public absolution, no matter how much they’ve humiliated their wives and hurt their children. “All of which makes you wish that God were a little less forgiving.”

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