By Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 30, 2009 1:15 PM
Updated, 3:05 p.m. ET: Sanford's very candid interview with the AP has the potential to derail what looked to be the increasing likelihood that he would hold on to his job.
The most problematic admission by Sanford in the interview is that he had strayed with other women but had not had sex with them.
Add that startling revelation to a number of odd quotes Sanford gave regarding his affair -- that his mistress "is his soul mate, but he will try to fall back in love with his wife" among others -- and you can see how Sanford has managed to pour fuel on a fire that appeared to be nearly out.
In the aftermath of the interview, during which Sanford admitted meeting with his mistress on several occasions in New York, state attorney general Henry McMaster called for an investigation into the governor's trips.
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's admission to the Associated Press today that he had five encounters with his Argentine mistress over the course of a single year including two overnight stays in New York isn't likely to fundamentally alter the resignation sweepstakes currently swirling around him.
Sanford had previously said that he had spent time with Maria Belen Chapur on four occasions over the past year and had not said that any of the encounters were in the United States.
While Sanford's latest admission is sure to keep the story churning in the state media and, to a lesser extent, the national media, it's hard to see how five meetings rather than four with his mistress will further imperil Sanford's chances of hanging on for his last 18 months in office.
For one, Sanford has acknowledged publicly that he weighed resigning in the immediate aftermath of the scandal but decided against it -- meaning that he isn't all that likely to re-weigh the possibility of resigning.
In an email to supporters yesterday, Sanford wrote that "I would ultimately be a better person and of more service in whatever doors God opened next in life if I stuck around to learn lessons rather than running and hiding down at the farm."
For another, there are considerable political repercussions on the 2010 governors race if Sanford steps aside.
Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer (R), who is running for the open seat, would ascend to the governorship -- handing him a major leg-up in next year's primary fight. (Bauer's pledge that he would not run for a full term in 2010 if he became governor before then was greeted with a collective eye roll by consultants aligned with other candidates in the race.)
None of Bauer's 2010 opponents want to see him move up to the governor's office any time soon (or ever) and their desire for the status quo winds up strengthening Sanford's hand.
What could change that calculus? If other major revelations -- more affairs, further misuse of state funds, etc. -- emerge that turn public opinion overwhelmingly against Sanford. Politicians are, at heart, survivors, and if the sentiment for Sanford's resignation grew considerably, they would likely have no choice but to push him out.