Analysis: SC Gov's Walk In Woods Problem For GOP

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's mysterious disappearance from his state is the latest sign that Republican governors, once thought to be President Obama's most credible adversaries, haven't quite lived up to their billing.

From Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's cringe-inducing nationally televised response to Obama's first budget address to Texas Gov. Rick Perry's suggestion that his state might secede, GOP governors — including those said to be eyeing a potential 2012 presidential bid — haven't exactly looked like the political grown-ups many party strategists had promised.

And none has had a rockier go of it than the party's best-known governor, Alaska's Sarah Palin. The 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee has been dogged by ethics complaints and has engaged in public feuds with David Letterman and with Levi Johnston, the former fiance of Palin's teenage daughter, Bristol, and the father of Bristol's infant son.

Palin, whose vice presidential bid sparked a devoted grass-roots following across the country, has also angered GOP leaders in Washington for poor communication and for canceling appearances at party events and fundraisers.

But the latest high-profile fiasco involves Sanford, whose outspoken effort to refuse part of the federal stimulus money due his state has made him a darling of conservatives and fueled talk that he harbors presidential aspirations.

Sanford planned to return to work Wednesday after a six-day absence from South Carolina, during which time he reportedly took a secretive hike along the Appalachian Trail. While Sanford's spokesman called the trip an opportunity for him to unwind after a stressful legislative session, the governor's whereabouts were unknown to his wife and his security detail.

So odd was the absence that Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, another Republican, publicly complained about Sanford's lack of communication.

The 49-year old Sanford has been a fierce critic of Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus package, even going to court to block $700 million South Carolina was to receive. He lost the court battle but boosted his national profile, making him a target of attack from national Democratic operatives — many of whom pounced on Sanford's unusual walk in the woods.

"Being a chief executive means being on call all the time, and Gov. Sanford either doesn't get that part of the job or can't handle it," Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, scolded.

To be sure, not all politically ambitious GOP governors have seen their political fortunes stuck in the spring mud.

Mississippi's Haley Barbour was heading out Wednesday for high-profile visits to New Hampshire and Iowa, states with key early presidential contests. Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty announced last month he would not seek re-election next year, clearing the way for an expected 2012 bid.

Florida's Charlie Crist is running to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Mel Martinez next year and could well have a presidential bid in the future. And Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who won praise for pushing his party to diversify, was viewed as enough of a political threat to Obama in 2012 that the president appointed him to be ambassador to China.

Barbour, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a well-regarded political strategist before becoming Mississippi governor, has long insisted that GOP governors would lead the party's efforts to rebuild. He reiterated that belief in an interview Tuesday, while acknowledging some of his colleagues' recent public relations challenges.

"When Democrats have majorities in Washington, Republicans there can oppose bad things and propose good things, but can't demonstrate that Republican ideas work," Barbour said. "The reason governors are so important is that they can take our ideas, implement them and show they can work."

In a sign that the political fortunes of Democratic governors may not be faring much better than their Republican counterparts, Barbour attended fundraisers this week for GOP gubernatorial candidates in New Jersey and Virginia.

In New Jersey, polls show former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie leading incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine, while former Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell is running a strong race against Democratic state Sen. Creigh Deeds to be the state's first GOP governor in eight years.

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  • by Barbara Location: Greenville on Jun 24, 2009 at 06:42 AM
    I would like to know what Mark Sanford was thinking. What he did was irresponsible, reckless and unprofessional. Sanford's spokesman called his disapearance an opportunity for him to "unwind". Well my question is this, Whay didn't he tell somebody?. Suppose there was a state of emergency; who would be in charge? How could he leave his children on Father's Day? His actions are suspicious to me. I think that he is hiding something, or perhaps "someone" The citizens of South Carolina should be on alert. The Governor's actions were irrational. I think that he should be evaluated. Also, I think that this says a lot about the relationship between Sanford and his Lt.Gov. Bauer was correct to publically complain about Sanford's behavior. I agree with Hari Sevugan. Being a chief executive is a huge responsibility. They can't just take off into the wild blue yonder simply because things are not going their way at the office. Governor Sanford, Grow UP!!
  • by Derek Location: Greenville on Jun 24, 2009 at 06:22 AM
    AP may be biased, but regardless the Governor of a state should not disappear for several days. Palin is trying her best to stay in the spotlight, don't worry Sarah, we'll never forget you. Jindal really really hurt his chances for 2012 when he publically declared he performed an exorcism on a college student.
  • by Kimo Location: Belhaven on Jun 24, 2009 at 05:46 AM
    "Sarah Palin has been dogged by ethics complaints" - all from the far left and all of which she has "beaten" - but no word about that. Seems to me that is to her credit - not a negative. But then what elsw would you expect from the AP????
  • by sam Location: farmville on Jun 24, 2009 at 05:44 AM
    I'd say there is a female some place that he is visiting. I don't believe he went for a walk, maybe a ride. The wife is the last to know. Another great governor. RIGHT.
  • by Kimo Location: Belhaven on Jun 24, 2009 at 05:39 AM
    So much for "finesse" in reporting. What drivel!!!
  • by Anonymous on Jun 24, 2009 at 05:24 AM
    Nobody in that report said he was a bad person. What they said was that his action were very odd and unexplained. Their point is that executives don't simply disappear. President Bush never disappeared, people knew where he was even when on vacation. What they are stating is simply that this hurts his political aspirations because his actions don't reflect responsible actions that would be required by his position. The entire story then talks about the other failures of governors presented as presidential contenders. You don't see Bobby Jindal heavily touted anymore, that isn't due to the media its due to the party not wanting to thrust him to the forefront. So just relax about insinuating every report is a conspiracy. It will have to be a very strong candidate to upset an incumbent (any party), so most promising GOP apirees will want to wait until 2016 anyway to cement their chances at the white house.
  • by Tad Location: Jamesville on Jun 24, 2009 at 05:01 AM
    And so it continues...the left wing liberal media's bogus assault on the right. What a load of turd this article is. The most hilarious part is where the AP idiot who wrote this article points out that Sarah Palin has been dogged by ethics complaints when the dogging is done by the AP every time some crackpot comes up with some kookie theory. All the while, the politician who has the most connections with organized crime, shady real estate deals, flakey left wing terrorists from yesteryear, racist phony preachers, tax cheats and other unsavory characters and situations rolls over everything and everybody while the AP stands by panting and getting all tingley in their groins. The AP and the other mainstream news media could be called pathetic except that this is actually part of the socialist plan. It's all in the plan,
  • by jessica Location: nc on Jun 24, 2009 at 04:35 AM
    What a biased report! So the guy went for a walk to clear his head... now he's a horrible person? I am tired of the name calling between the parties! Washington is so busy bashing each other-that no wonder our country is where it is today. I say we vote in all new representatives...get some fresh-non-corrupt blood in there and lets figure it all out!
  • by Barlow Location: Winterville on Jun 24, 2009 at 04:00 AM
    Shoulda kept walking
  • by Mike Location: Edenton on Jun 24, 2009 at 02:40 AM
    One rogue elephant makes the news, now all elephants are potentially bad. It that it? Kinda like pit bulls, huh? Gov. Palin is just a real person with the same kinds of problems like anyone else. She was pretty much a quiet unknown with the national spotlight leaving her alone until she became a threat. The current administration certainly has more than it's fair share of faults, but the media darling is untouchable.

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