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GOP abandons Sanford … or the other way around

Party of one

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In an interview on a Columbia radio station last week, Gov. Mark Sanford said he wouldn't be a drag on the Republican gubernatorial ticket in 2010, despite the controversy of his Argentinian affair and an investigation into his travel records.

"The Republican Party is not me, and I am not the Republican party," he said.

Finally, something that Sanford and other GOP leaders can agree on.

Last week, he received word from Statehouse Republicans and party leaders across South Carolina, pleading with the scandal-ridden governor to step aside for the sake of the party and the state. First came word from House Speaker Bobby Harrell and then more than 60 other House Republicans.

Names on that list included several longtime Sanford supporters, including Rep. Tim Scott, a candidate for lieutenant governor whom the governor endorsed two years ago to fill out the rest of Treasurer Thomas Ravenel's term. The legislature instead appointed Converse Chellis.

"We have collectively come to the conclusion that South Carolina will not be able to move forward under your leadership," House Majority Leader Kenneth Bingham of Cayce wrote to the governor. "Unless major changes are made, South Carolina will find itself perpetually sidetracked by the disarray that you have brought upon our state."

Sanford has always wrestled with the legislature, so it wasn't a surprise that he blamed their resignation letter on retribution. But the S.C. Republican Party executive committee sent its own letter Thursday calling for the governor to go.

It's odd that everyone is running from Sanford at the same time, but it may just be that Republicans are finally realizing they're all on the same page.

"As more people jump on the bandwagon, you feel more comfortable getting on," says Jeri Cabot, a political science professor at the College of Charleston.

Sanford remains steadfast in staying, regardless of who wants him to leave.

Cabot says that the governor is likely betting that he can beat an impeachment vote. Many of those seeking his resignation now may not be so keen on forcing him out.

"It fits with his approach to politics," she says. "Call it stubbornness. Call it naivete. He tries to hold his ground."

In a lengthy letter to voters on his website last week, Sanford laid out what he called the rest of the story. He said his travel expenses were being held to a different standard than past administrations. Even arguing that he has saved taxpayers money by not extending official trips into mini-vacations. If the irony is lost on you, you've been under a rock.

The effort to compare his own spending with other governors rings a little hollow from a politician who has preached frugality and a different kind of politics, Cabot says.

"That's a pretty weak argument having run on a platform of saving tax dollars," she says.

As for why Sanford would even want to hang around, Cabot says that it's about a legacy where Argentina is a speed bump, not a stop sign. But he'll have to make it around the calls for his resignation.

"He doesn't want to be remembered as the guy who refused to leave," she says.

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