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New symbols of fortune and doom in S.C. politics

Fresh Batch of Bad Luck

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Maria Belen Chapur, Gov. Mark Sanford's mistress, was looking for a little good fortune to get over her man. She'd met someone in July 2008, but the romance that had sparked weeks earlier with the Luv Guv had her doubtful of her chances.
"I have to continue my way," she wrote in e-mails eventually leaked to the press. "(I'll) be alone for some time and, if I am lucky enough, will someday feel towards somebody what I today feel for you."
It turned out she was not so lucky. Chapur and Sanford carried on a long-distance affair through the rest of the year and into 2009, even after Sanford's wife, Jenny, caught wind of the infidelity and demanded her husband end it.
And things couldn't get much worse than last June, when the governor's secret trip to Argentina led to the public unraveling of the pair's clandestine relationship.
There are historical symbols of good and bad luck, from the albatross to the lucky thong, but the past year has offered a handful of new trinkets that spell either good fortune or doom for South Carolina politicians.

The Sanford Collection

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The Parking Pass — Sanford might have been able to get away with his story about a solitary hike on the Appalachian Trail (as opposed to the reality of spending nearly a week in Argentina with his mistress), if it hadn't been for CNN producer Peter Hamby uncovering the governor's car in a parking lot at the Columbia International Airport. It was a state law enforcement Suburban to be sure, but how to peg it to Sanford? Well, there were hiking clothes and a sleeping bag still sitting in the front seat, but the kicker was a parking pass for the Sanford boys' school. Confronted with the news, Sanford's office went quiet until the governor himself surfaced, climbing off the plane from South America.

Book of Job — In her first interview following the governor's return, Jenny Sanford sat down with the Associated Press in her Sullivan's Island living room. Reporter Bruce Smith noted in his report that a devotional book on the story of Job was sitting on the coffee table. The Biblical tale about a long-suffering, but devout follower of the Lord, is inspirational. It's also a story of a man with the worst possible luck ever. We're not sure we'd tempt the fates by leaving that volume sitting around.

André Bauer — Figuratively speaking, we started a clock here in the office for the day that Gov. Mark Sanford would be carted out of office. It was pretty clear early on that he didn't want to leave, but the governor had deceived his own staff and state officials. He'd spent taxpayer money on a special trip to see his mistress (money he only reimbursed the state a year after the fact when the affair became public). And then he went on to further embarrass the state with a seeming inability to keep his weepy mouth shut about how much he missed his honey south of the equator. So, in the end, what kept this guy in office? Aside from some well-placed support in the legislature, Sanford also had a weariness of Lt. Gov. André Bauer working in his favor. There were some in the legislature who fretted over a Bauer administration and others who didn't want to give the potential gubernatorial candidate a leg up in the race to replace Sanford in 2010. It all worked in Sanford's favor and he got the 18 months he was looking for.

Other blessings and curses

Microphone — Remember those legislators we mentioned who fretted over a Bauer administration? Well, they were right. Bauer has yet to even officially announce his candidacy for governor, but he's already done a good job of misreading the tea leaves regarding voter priorities. "You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply," Bauer said, regarding public assistance programs. "They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better." In just about every campaign appearance since then, Bauer has defended himself, saying he may not be the most articulate candidate, but he tells the truth. He'd certainly be a lot better off without amplification.

Boeing — Anti-incumbent venom is seeping into nearly every race in the country this year, but there's already an inoculation: The Dreamliner. Boeing has a vision for the next generation in commercial airline travel, but it has been delayed for too long at existing facilities in the West. So, the company is replicating its production plans in North Charleston with thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue for the state. More than that, it presents South Carolina as a possible anti-union alternative for companies looking to avoid a crippling strike. Not surprisingly, every public official with the slightest of fingerprints on this deal are elevating their role to seal-the-deal status. The evidence provided could be as simple as voting for Statehouse incentives to something as convoluted as "planting the seeds" years ago for a big deal no one could have seen coming.

John McCain and Joe Lieberman — There have been famed triumvirates in our nation's history — well, the only one that comes to mind is George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Harrison Ford. And nobody wants to see that again. Anyway, the three-man team of Sens. McCain, Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham seemed unstoppable in 2008. But, when the Straight Talk Express put on the parking brake after November, this team of dynamos seems to have imploded. McCain is in the middle of the political fight of his life in a GOP primary this year, and Lieberman is barely tolerated by the Democrats, a party he represented 10 years ago on the presidential ticket. Is it any wonder that Lindsey is looking for new friends across the aisle?

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