The Sanford Campaign Takes a Turn for the Absurd

This is what happens when a candidate starts to panic.

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Then-South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford speaks to the media in front of St. Philip's Church in downtown Charleston, S.C. Wednesday Dec. 9, 2009.
Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford could be in trouble in the race for South Carolina's 1st District congressional seat.

When it turned out that former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford was not, as he had said, hiking on the Appalachian Trail, but rather visiting with his girlfriend in Argentina while his wife was back at the homestead, Sanford's defense was, essentially, that he was just a crazy kid in love.

The "crazy" part is starting to look a bit more credible.

It's a reasonable debate, whether a politician's personal life is anyone's business but his or her own, along with the families involved. So perhaps Sanford, who is making a run for an open congressional seat in a special election, could rightfully argue that while he surely hurt and humiliated his wife, it's really no one else's place to judge.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

But what screw got turned inside his head when he asked his wife – the one person who indisputably has the right to judge his behavior – to run his congressional campaign? Calling it another bad judgment doesn't do it justice. Clinically self-centered is a better defense.

Then, Sanford showed up at the family homestead without permission and in violation of the rules of their divorce. Sanford says he just wanted to watch the Super Bowl with his 14-year-old son. He was discovered by Jenny Sanford, his ex-wife, as he was leaving the house, using his cell phone as a flashlight.

Even in the current, embarrassing state of Congress, this does not qualify as congressional behavior. Jenny Sanford accused him of trespassing and the National Republican Congressional Committee pulled its financial support.

Now, Sanford – trailing Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch by a stunning nine points in a recent PPP poll – has gotten rather desperate, "debating" a cardboard cutout of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, saying Pelosi was a stand-in for his opponent, who has agreed to debate Sanford once, instead of the four times Sanford wants.

Pelosi may be unpopular – a recent poll shows her with higher negatives than positives – but the tactic is not the sort used by someone who has a fighting chance of winning the race. It looks panicky. And on paper, the GOP candidate in the red district should not be panicking; he or she should be celebrating long before the votes are counted. Sanford, however, appears in danger of losing what should be an automatic keep for the Republicans. Perhaps he just needs a vacation. Did someone suggest the Appalachian Trail?

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