Sanford Hopes to Wait Out Critics, Media
By Ben Pershing
The first and best strategy for any politician seeking to survive a scandal is to change the subject as quickly as possible, and restore some semblance of normalcy. For Mark Sanford, the tragic death yesterday of Michael Jackson had the unintentional side effect of vastly reducing the national media's focus on his foibles. But Sanford still has to contend with the press and the public in South Carolina, and so the governor appears intent on returning to work and adopting the classic message, "Nothing to see here, move along." Will it work?
Sanford will hold a Cabinet meeting today to discuss state business, even as some donors and local politicians call for him to resign. The State reports: "Early polls show a majority of state residents think the governor should step down. But a flood of calls for Sanford's resignation from the state's political class might not materialize because of the impact such a move would have on next year's race to replace him." There is no consensus within the GOP on who should be the party standard-bearer if Sanford leaves office, and as long as Republicans are divided on that question many of them will hesitate to push the incumbent aside. Haley Barbour, the man who succeeded Sanford atop the RGA, thinks Sanford should keep his job.
There's always a chance that Sanford won't have a choice, that the decision won't be his to make. Much of the coverage today is focused on the governor's state-funded trip to Argentina in 2008, a visit for which Sanford -- without admitting any wrongdoing -- said yesterday he would reimburse the taxpayers. The hunt for any evidence of official impropriety will continue, as critics in the press and the political class who might be hesitant to chastise Sanford for a strictly private mistake will quickly change their tune if he is found to have abused his office. It likely won't help his cause that Sanford's staff gave security officials the runaround when they were looking for him last weekend.
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