Gov. Mark Sanford returned to work in Columbia on Thursday, telling television reporters he had no plans to resign as questions mounted about his ability to lead.
A Republican national committeeman, an Upstate newspaper and the governor's former spokesman called for Sanford's resignation. Early polls show a majority of state residents think the governor should step down.
But a flood of calls for Sanford's resignation from the state's political class might not materialize because of the impact such a move would have on next year's race to replace him.
"It's (Sanford's) decision to make right now," said former S.C. GOP chairman Katon Dawson, though he said of the camps working behind the scenes, "These are competitors working here."
Few opponents in the Republican field want to give Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer a test run before 2010 to prove himself in a potential field of U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, state Sen. Larry Grooms, state Rep. Nikki Haley, Attorney General Henry McMaster and Furman University political scientist Brent Nelsen.
Democrats think they can use Sanford as an albatross if he remains in office.
Analysts said Sanford's resignation could be a blessing – or a curse – for Bauer.
"Andre has to build an administration from scratch in the middle of the toughest economic times we've seen," said Dick Harpootlian, a former S.C. Democratic Party chairman.
Dawson called it a "Schick razor that's a double-edged sword."
Perform well and it could be a ticket back in 2010. But Dawson, too, noted Bauer would have to build a staff from scratch.
Scott Huffmon, a political scientist at Winthrop University, said influential lawmakers with whom Sanford has disagreed might want to consider whether they prefer an "emasculated" Sanford or an energetic and ambitious Bauer.
"It depends how much they want the man's head," Huffmon said.
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