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Sanford’s “Hiking” Affair: Spitzer/Edwards, or Giuliani/Vitter?

The ever more bizarre tale of the disappearing South Carolina governor has had a even more fascinating twist now. Apparently, Sanford spent his time “away from the kids” in Buenos Aires with a “dear, dear friend from Argentina,” with whom he was having an affair.

While he has already resigned his post as chair of the RGA, the full political fallout is yet to be seen.

Sanford has long campaigned as a strong conservative (over 90% rating from the American Conservative Union over his career), though has made headlines more in the economic/fiscal realm than on social issues. Like fellow Republicans Rudy Giuliani and David Vitter, he came out relatively quickly to acknowledge his infidelity, and will be looking to quickly move out of the spotlight to revamp his image.

The two big fish that have gone down on this issue in the past eighteen months, Eliot Spitzer and John Edwards, both seemed to be punished more sharply for their hypocracy and attempts at cover ups than for the scandals themselves. Ironically, both Spitzer and Edwards are Democrats, the party which theoretically could be more forgiving to this type of behavior.

Bottom line for Sanford: fess up, get back to work, and try not to look like a hypocrite, because that seems to be the thing that sinks people in the American voters’ eyes the quickest.

Renard Sexton is FiveThirtyEight’s international columnist and is based in Geneva, Switzerland. He can be contacted at