Could Mark Sanford make a comeback?

Mark Sanford

With Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) under fire from conservatives for his desire to raise taxes as part of a “fiscal cliff” deal, there is speculation that former Gov. Mark Sanford, who made news in 2009 due to an affair, could try to make a political comeback:

For starters he’s done the one thing political observers insisted was absolutely necessary in the event he wanted to attempt a political comeback – legitimize his love affair with Argentinean hottie Maria Belen Chapur.  Sanford proposed to Chapur last week in Buenos Aires … and she accepted.  The result?  What was once viewed by some as a tawdry affair now looks more like thehappy ending to a romance novel.

What else is Sanford doing?  Working the press … like Newsday contributor Lane Filler, who encountered Sanford in a very interesting location at the 2012 Republican National Convention this week.

“I saw him coming down the escalator at the press center of the Republican National Convention in Tampa,” Filler writes of his “surprise encounter” with Sanford.

Hmmmm …

So if Sanford has no political future (and ostensibly knows it) then what exactly was he doing lurking around the press corps at the GOP convention?

Well for one thing, he was dodging speculation (from Filler) about a possible primary challenge to fiscally liberal U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham.

“I bet myself $6 that you’re going to run a primary against Sen. Graham in 2014,” Filler said to Sanford.

“That’s a bet against yourself you’re going to have to pay off, because the thought hadn’t crossed my mind,” Sanford responded.


We wrote back in January that the 52-year-old had started plotting a political comeback, although his target at that point seemed to be the woman who followed him into office – current S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley.  Sanford financially supported Haley at a critical juncture of her 2010 campaign – a decision he later came to regret.

Were Sanford to contemplate challenging Graham or Haley, he would have plenty of company.  Numerous Palmetto politicians, including his former chief of staff Tom Davis, U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, State Treasurer Curtis Loftis and U.S. Rep. Tim Scott have expressed interest in one (or both) of those posts – and of course many of them are also eyeing U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint’s seat in the event he decides not to seek a third term in 2016.

Sanford was thought to be a contender for the Republican nomination before the scandal that ostensibly killed his political career. Sanford made a mistake, for sure, but a campaign against Graham would be a mistake. While Sanford pushed libertarian-ish policies — scaling back spending during the recession and school choice — his private life will continue to be a cloud over him. There’s just no getting around that.

There are other good potential candidates that may run, including a couple listed above. Sanford may not run, but if he did, his presence in a primary would be a distraction that may wind up helping Graham win re-election.

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