What do Mark Sanford, the conservative Republican, and John Edwards, the populist Democrat, have in common?
Answer: They were both born in South Carolina except for Sanford, who was born in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
In short, they don't have much in common.
Except this: there's a current fixation on their extra-marital activities.
Or, as they say on cable television, the gifts that keep on giving.
Let's start with the embattled governor of South Carolina.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Sanford admitted he saw Maria Belen Chapur, his Argentine mistress, "more times than previously disclosed," including "two romantic, multi-night stays with her in New York before they met there again intending to break up."
Not including, of course, the five-day visit to Argentina earlier this month by way of the Appalachian Trail.
He also met her two other times, in non-romantic settings — their first meeting, in 2001, in Uruguay, and a "coffee date" in 2004 during the Republican National Convention.
But then it got worse.
In a subsequent AP interview, Sanford called Ms. Chapur his "soul mate," the relationship a "love story." He's going to try and fall back in love with his wife, Jenny.
And there were other women — though while he "crossed the lines" with them, he didn't cross the "sex" line.
If you're a married guy at the end of the day you shouldn't be dancing with somebody else. So anyway without wandering into that field we'll just say that I let my guard down in all senses of the word without ever crossing the line that I crossed with this situation
Meanwhile, the drumbeat of calls for his resignation — from his fellow South Carolina Republicans — continues. Fourteen of the 27 GOP state senators have now jumped on that bandwagon. Said state Sen. Larry Grooms, "He's lost the moral authority to lead our state, so he needs to step down for the good of our state."
Here's a question: Who allows him to keep having these AP interviews in which he confesses all? We've learned that Sanford may not have much political smarts, but isn't there anyone on his staff who is paying attention to what's happening? (Talking Points Memo has the audio of the latest AP interview. It is painful to listen.)
Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R), for one, says Sanford should stick it out. I mean, stay in office.
I'm asking people to give him a chance. If he wants to stay on, I support him. I think we can move past this as a state. ... It is in the state's best interest to finish out his term.
Though that is subject to change as well. Jonathan Martin of Politico reports that Graham; the state's other U.S. senator, Jim DeMint; and Rep. Gresham Barrett, another Republican gubernatorial hopeful, called Sanford today to have "frank conversations about the governor's ability to carry out his job." Said one unnamed top Republican of the governor: "His support has collapsed."
A subplot to this is that a sizable number of Palmetto State Republicans, never fans of Sanford's to begin with, simply detest Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, and understand that he would be the incumbent should Sanford be forced to step down. The State newspaper itemized things about Bauer that have led to concerns, as well as a whispering campaign:
During an interview Monday, Bauer, who is a bachelor, voluntarily brought up the subject of his sexual orientation, which he said has been the subject of rumors.
Asked, then, if he's homosexual, Bauer said: "One word, two letters. 'No.' Let's go ahead and dispel that now. ...
"We have diverted what the real topic should be here: Is the governor capable for carrying on the duties for which he was elected?" ...
In 2003, while running late, Bauer ran two red lights in downtown Columbia before stopping for a police officer, who quickly pointed a gun at him. Originally charged with reckless driving, the lieutenant governor pleaded guilty to two lesser charges and paid a $311.25 fine.
In 2006, Bauer was pulled over by a state trooper after he was clocked at 101 mph on an interstate. Bauer used his state-issued radio to tell the officer he was "S.C. 2" — code for lieutenant governor. He was not ticketed. When asked about it later, Bauer at first denied the story. ...
"After a scandal, the person who comes in after has to rebuild trust between voters and this highest office," said Dave Woodard, political science professor at Clemson University. "Now you've got a problem. You've got a guy who's got a reputation of doing some reckless things."
But Bauer is also "beloved by many." So this whole debate about whether Sanford should stay or go may be mostly about 2010 and the campaign to succeed him. And Republicans anxious to stop Bauer know that the best way would be to keep Sanford in office until his term expires at the end of 2010.
A good piece tonight on NPR's All Things Considered by Adam Hochberg on the whole mess.
Two blog posts of note:
Joan Walsh, writing in Salon, no longer with any sympathy towards Sanford.
Similarly, Michael Scherer, writing in Time magazine's Swampland blog, has "no tears" for Sanford.
Meanwhile, just in case Republicans were getting too much attention with their sex scandals, along comes the latest in the John Edwards saga.
The New York Daily News reports that former Edwards aide Andrew Young — who last year claimed that he, not Edwards, was the father of Edwards' mistress Rielle Hunter's baby — now says it's not true, that he "agreed to take the fall" for the former presidential candidate.
Young has come forward — and is writing a book on it, to be published by St. Martin's Press — because he felt betrayed by Edwards' "recklessness." Young has apparently found a sex tape of Edwards and Hunter, one that is "said to have shown him taking positions that weren't on his official platform."
And it gets worse.
According to our source, Hunter confided to Young that she and Edwards talked about getting married should the candidate's cancer-stricken wife, Elizabeth, pass away, even discussing what music they'd play at their wedding.
I need a shower.