Mark Sanford Asked Ex-Wife To Run His Congressional Campaign

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 4 2013 11:00 AM

Why Mark Sanford Wanted His Ex-Wife To Run His Comeback Campaign

150882183
Mark Sanford has the name recognition to win the South Carolina race, but there's one woman who could still sink his campaign

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Jason Zengerle has a long profile of ex-South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford in the latest edition of New York magazine that's worth a read for anyone fascinated by the Republican's return to politics less than four years after he became a national punchline thanks to his time "hiking" the Appalachian trail. But the nugget that's making the most headlines this morning is that the Republican asked his ex-wife Jenny to be his campaign manager late last year when he was laying the groundwork for his bid to fill Rep. Tim Scott's old House seat:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

When [Mark] first ran for Congress in 1994, he installed Jenny as his campaign manager. He did this for reasons of economy—"You’re free," he told her at the time—but she proved a natural at the job. She blossomed into a shrewd political strategist, running Mark’s subsequent campaigns and becoming his top adviser. Will Folks, a former Sanford press secretary, says, "There’s absolutely no way he would have ever won the congressional seat or been governor without her."  ...
So when Mark came to visit her, he arrived with a proposal. "Since you’re not running, I want to know if you’ll run my campaign," he said. "We could put the team back together." Jenny told him, in so many words, that wasn’t going to happen.
Advertisement

But as interesting as that personal tidbit may be—it suggests either that Jenny Sanford is a more forgiving person than most, or that Mark Sanford still hasn't figured out how personal relationships work—it's not at all surprising on a political level. While Jenny's past successes running her then-husband's campaigns may be the official reason the ex-governor and his friends are giving for the offer, there'd have also clearly been a more obvious benefit of having her fill that role: namely, her automatic endorsement of his campaign, something that would no doubt go a long way toward winning over those South Carolinians still skeptical of a man who left his wife and children at home to carry on an affair in a foreign country:

There is really only one person who poses a serious threat to Sanford’s campaign. "Clearly Jenny has the ability to determine whether Mark wins or loses this race," says one Sanford associate, who spells out two scenarios. "If Jenny went out there and said, ‘This man caused me humiliation, he put me through emotional hell, but we’re all human, I think he’s genuinely sorry for what happened, and there’s nobody in this field who’d make a bigger difference in Washington,’ then he’d win hands down." Conversely, the associate posits, "If she said what hasn’t been told is just how cruel he is and how self-centered he is, and how he knew this was going to cause pain to me and the kids and it didn’t matter to him, she’d automatically sink his campaign."

Despite Sanford's embarrassing past, his strong name recognition and conservative resume have made him the early front-runner to earn the GOP nomination for the seat, setting up a likely general election match-up with Elizabeth Colbert-Busch. While Colbert-Busch has her own advantages—namely the fundraising machine that is her brother, Stephen—she'd face an uphill battle in a dark red South Carolina district that favors whichever candidate Republican primary voters put forward. You can read the full piece here.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

The Ungodly Horror of Having a Bug Crawl Into Your Ear and Scratch Away at Your Eardrum

My Father Was James Brown. I Watched Him Beat My Mother. Then I Married Someone Like Him.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 17 2014 2:57 PM ISIS Helps Snuff Out Conservative Opposition to Government Funding Bill
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 17 2014 1:59 PM Ask a Homo: Secret Ally Codes 
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 1:26 PM Hey CBS, Rihanna Is Exactly Who I Want to See on My TV Before NFL Games
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 1:01 PM A Rare, Very Unusual Interview With Michael Jackson, Animated
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 12:35 PM IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.