Let the Mark Sanford apology tour begin.
The disgraced former South Carolina governor – whose political career was derailed in 2011 following revelations of an extramarital affair with an Argentinian television reporter– is going on a media blitz to apologize, defend himself, and insist he’d be a stellar congressman.
Sanford is one of 16 GOPers running in a special election for the House following former Rep. Tim Scott’s appointment to the Senate to fill Jim DeMint’s vacated seat
Sanford appeared on NBC’s Today on Tuesday, and admitted he “failed mightily” in his personal life and marriage. He insisted, however, that “the one place I didn’t ever fail was with the taxpayers.”
And on Monday, his campaign team released an ad asking South Carolina voters for a second chance. “I’ve experienced how none of us go through life without mistakes. But in their wake, we can learn a lot about grace, a God of second chances and be better for it,” he said.
The one-time GOP rising star made a similar argument with the National Review last month, asking voters concerned about the affair to “look under the hood” of his entire career.
But are voters able to forgive and forget?
Former Florida GOP Rep. Mark Foley, who was caught sending explicit messages to young male pages, was not able to resuscitate his political career following the revelations.
Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, who was outed for using the services of a D.C. madam, apologized and managed to retain his Senate seat in a blowout victory.
The reviews were mixed for Eliot Spitzer, the former New York governor who was busted for patronizing a high-class prostitution ring. The Democrat resigned, but got a show with CNN (which was eventually cancelled.) And former President Bill Clinton, well, he’s doing just fine.
When it comes to Sanford, “South Carolina voters are very forgiving…They’ll look at all of his record,” Alex Stroman, the executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party, told msnbc.com. And because the GOP primary race is so crowded, “anything could happen.”
So far, Sanford isn’t the number one pick among voters, according to a straw poll conducted by the Republican Liberty Caucus of South Carolina over the weekend at the Freedom Works Congressional Forum. Sanford came in second behind former state Sen. John Kuhn. Kuhn bagged 35% of the voted compared to Sanford’s 19%.
Chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party Dick Harpootlian acknowledged to msnbc that Sanford’s chances are “pretty good” because he has bankrolled a lot of cash. But he said the idea that the GOPer never deceived taxpayers is “total bunk.”
“Let’s not forget that as a result of the tumult over his affair, he was investigated and they found he spent campaign money and state money to visit his girlfriend in Argentina. He had the largest single ethics fine in the history of the state—over $100,000. He was using state and campaign money to pay his cable bill, to go on hunting trips..and to visit his girlfriend,” said Harpootlian.
Sanford told Today, however, that the ethics fine isn’t a conflict and said it was akin to the way businesses settle lawsuits.
“There was no admission of guilt with any of that…It’s a much longer story,” he said.
Sarah Symonds, author and self-described infidelity and relationship analyst, says Sanford’s chances aren’t good.
“First of all, I don’t think any cheating politician ever has a mea culpa. It’s just words on paper, to what he thinks is a gullible audience,” she told msnbc.com. “The fact is that when a man cheats so easily on his wife, then he is cheating his public too and it will be very hard for him to gain their trust again.”
For more on Sanford and the politics of redemption, check out the video above. Michelle Cottle of the Daily Beast and John Nichols from The Nation weighed in on Tuesday’s Hardball.