Gov. Mark Sanford has no plans to get involved in the race to follow the term-limited Republican, nor does he plan to use his $1.1 million campaign fund to support candidates or issues.
But Sanford's shadow is likely to influence the June 8 Republican primary and November's general election, political professionals said.
One year ago, Sanford filed his eventually unsuccessful lawsuit to prevent lawmakers from spending $700 million in federal stimulus money. Sanford has been a political pariah since his admission of an extra-marital affair last June and the subsequent investigation of his use of state funds, aircraft and campaign money. But polls show the governor's ideas are still popular even if his personal failings mean Sanford's job-approval ratings are lower.
"I wouldn't want it," said Gary Karr, spokesman for former governor David Beasley and now with Edelman Public Relations in Washington, D.C. "Is he toxic? No, but there's as much downside as upside."
A Rasmussen Reports poll released last week showed 62 percent of likely Republican primary voters approved of Sanford's performance, which experts said is not great for an incumbent but a three percentage point increase since March. An April poll by Newt Gingrich's American Solutions showed 40 percent of registered voters surveyed approved of Sanford while 57 percent disapproved — ratings below those of President Barack Obama.
Sanford has said it was important to him to get his goals across "the finish line" after he leaves office, and voters still like his ideas.
"I've always believed that the ideas we espoused and shared with so many across this state were always much bigger than our administration," Sanford wrote by e-mail, "and therefore it's always been my belief that any candidacy that attempted to advance those ideas would do well."
Sanford's impact is particularly important to state Rep. Nikki Haley, who, along with Attorney General Henry McMaster, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, is running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Haley was a legislative ally of Sanford, and she has said the governor helped convince her to run for the office. Many of her positions — cutting the income tax, consolidating school districts — are the same as Sanford's. Sanford is a favorite of the tea party movement, whose voters could play a decisive role in GOP elections.
To read the complete article, visit www.thestate.com.