How bad are things for Mark Sanford? Don’t ask South Carolina Republicans.

April 18, 2013

How bad are things for Mark Sanford? So bad that his normally talkative colleagues refuse to answer questions about the former South Carolina governor as he fights to return to Congress.


Then-Gov. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) wipes his tears after admitting to having an extramarital affair during a news conference in Columbia, S.C., in June 2009. (AP)

Things are so bad that some members of South Carolina's congressional delegation wouldn't even mutter his name Thursday. One Palmetto State congressman walked away from a reporter without saying a word. Another only laughed.

The National Republican Congressional Committee announced Wednesday that it would not spend any money to help Sanford win a May 7 special election after his ex-wife accused him of trespassing on her property earlier this year.

And what do South Carolina Republicans make of the move?

Let's start with Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), a talented wordsmith known to usually avail himself to reporters milling about in the Speaker's Lobby during votes. On Thursday, Gowdy avoided Sanford questions with a smile.

"I hope you have a phenomenal weekend, and I want you to be able to do everything you want to do this weekend," he told a reporter. "I'll talk to you about whatever you want to talk about -- but not Mark Sanford. Anything else -- not that."

With that, Gowdy turned around and walked into the men's room.

Maybe Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) would say something? He's a conservative second-term lawmaker from the western side of South Carolina.

No luck there, either. When a reporter approached and asked about Sanford, Duncan shook his head no, turned around and walked back into the House chamber.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), whose district borders the district Sanford hopes to win, explained that the recent 15-candidate GOP primary that Sanford won caused a "circuit overload" for voters.

"At least 10 to 12 of the people would have been terrific candidates," Wilson said. "I'm concerned about how the primary worked out. It was just so unfortunate."

Struggling to find a silver lining in Sanford's travails, Wilson suggested that "The good thing is, we have a lot of factions in our party, we've actually multiplied through division."

So should Sanford drop out?

"I just would leave it up to the candidate," Wilson said, adding that he supports the NRCC's decision to stay out of the race.

At the other end of the Capitol, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) wouldn't engage on the issue. He was too busy Thursday with the unveiling of a bipartisan immigration proposal that he helped write.

So then how about Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the man Sanford is running to replace? When reporters asked him, he only laughed and walked away.

This item has been updated.

Paul Kane contributed to this report.

Follow Ed O'Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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