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The Fix: S.C. Governor Mark Sanford Admits Affair

The State newspaper in South Carolina first reported this morning that Sanford had spent the last six days in Argentina not, as his staff had previously said, hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Sanford's public announcement punctuates a strange and winding series events that caused confusion within the state government and considerable chagrin among the Republican Party, which saw its second potential 2012 candidate in as many weeks brought low by infidelity.

The analysis about the press conference has just begun but we had a few initial thoughts while watching the event.

¿ Sanford was clearly unprepared for the media swarm he faced. He began shakily with a riff about his time spent hiking the Appalachian Trail before rolling off a long litany of people to whom he needed to apologize. Sanford, usually an extremely confident public orator, stumbled over his words time and time again and continued to take questions well after he had promised a "last question." (In Sanford's defense, it's hard to imagine anyone would be prepared to make such an announcement.)

¿ This is not the end of the story. The problem for Sanford is that he appears to have willfully misled his staff, the lieutenant governor and the people of the state about his whereabouts -- signaling that he was likely headed to the Appalachian Trail before hopping on a flight to Argentina. There will almost certainly be some sort of investigation into whether Sanford misused state funds on this trip -- remember that he took a state-owned vehicle and parked it at the Columbia airport -- that will keep this wound raw for the foreseeable future.

¿ Sanford's 2012 candidacy is almost certainly over. Having an extramarital affair is bad, but not being truthful to the people of the state and disappearing for five days is unforgivable on the national stage -- or any stage for that matter. Let the search for a new champion for fiscal conservatives begin!

¿ Coming nearly one week to the day after Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) admitted his own affair, this is yet another gut punch for the Republican Party, which can't seem to get off the mat. Republican strategists have to be wondering when enough is enough; the spate of bad press for the party for the past few weeks has been unrelenting.

¿ The cover up is ALWAYS worse than the crime. It's a cliche for a reason; note to future politicians: if you make a mistake, you need to own up to it immediately and totally. Do not obfuscate, do not try misdirection. In the modern media environment where private is public, the truth will come out.

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