- The Washington Times - Monday, June 29, 2009

The godfather of Mark Sanford’s youngest son, Sen. Lindsey Graham, said the embattled South Carolina governor should serve out the rest of his term as long as he reconciles his marriage.

Mr. Graham, South Carolina Republican, appeared to tear up Sunday as he discussed Mr. Sanford’s affair with an Argentine woman.

“My main focus, right now, is: Can this marriage be saved?” Mr. Graham said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Second chances are not deserved or required, but if they’re ever given, they can be a blessing. I hope Mark gets one with his family and the voters.”

Mr. Sanford admitted having an affair with an Argentine woman, since identified in South American media as 43-year-old divorcee Maria Belen Chapur. The admission came after his unexplained disappearance from South Carolina a week ago.

Mr. Sanford had been considered a likely candidate to run for president in 2012, but news of his affair seems to have sunk that possibility.

In an interview Sunday with the Associated Press outside his family’s coastal home on Sullivans Island, Mr. Sanford said he considered resigning the governorship but said political and spiritual advisers persuaded him not to do so.

“Resigning would be the easiest thing to do,” he said, saying his plans called for “walking into the legislative term with a humble spirit.”

“I have to go through that voyage over the next 18 months,” he said, referring to his remaining time as governor. He said he wants to repair the public’s frayed trust. He added that he and his wife, Jenny, are working on their marriage.

The Sanford admission closely followed another announcement of infidelity from a likely Republican presidential candidate. Sen. John Ensign of Nevada admitted earlier this month to having had an affair with a former staffer.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, also considered a potential Republican presidential candidate, had harsher words for his Republican colleagues.

“Clearly, there’s been damage,” Mr. Pawlenty said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Any time you have leading figures who are engaged in behavior that is sad and troubling and hypocritical, other people are going to look at that and say, ‘Hmm, they don’t walk the walk.’ And so the words and the actions don’t ring true.”

Mr. Pawlenty also said he thinks he “can make a contribution, in a positive way, for trying to rebuild this party. And it needs it.”

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who took over as chairman of the Republican Governors Association after Mr. Sanford resigned the position, declined to comment directly on the Sanford situation.

“I just don’t talk about people’s personal problems. I don’t think it’s appropriate, I don’t think it’s polite, and I don’t think it achieves any purpose,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” adding that he’s looking to winning Republican gubernatorial races this November in Virginia and New Jersey.

“What Republicans and anybody else ought to be talking about are the issues that affect people’s lives,” Mr. Barbour said. “And right now I think the American people’s greatest concern is about our economy and the policies of this administration, which most people don’t think are going in the right direction because they’re very concerned about this incredible spending.”

Mr. Barbour doubted he would be a candidate in 2012, saying, “I can’t just say flatly no. But I would be very surprised. My wife would be even more surprised.”

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” another Republican often mentioned as a possible 2012 candidate - former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney - said people in public life ought to be held to a higher standard.

“Not everybody is a governor or a senator or a president. And we expect people to live by a higher standard because what they do is going to be magnified,” Mr. Romney said. “The things they care about will be hurt. And the culture of the nation and the people who follow them will be hurt.”

The 2008 Republican primary hopeful said considering a 2012 run was “way beyond my horizon at this point.”

• Tom LoBianco can be reached at tlobianco@washingtontimes.com.

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