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South Carolina: A Contrite Sanford Insists He’s Always Stood by Taxpayers

(Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former Gov. Mark Sanford walked the line between contrition and a commitment to his GOP campaign for the 1st District in a live appearance on NBC’s “Today” show on Tuesday.

“The reality of our lives is, if we live long enough, we’re gonna fail at something,” said Sanford, referring to his sudden disappearance as governor in 2009 and extramarital affair with an Argentinian woman. “And I absolutely failed in my personal life and my marriage. But one place I didn’t ever fail was with the taxpayer. If you were to look at my 20 years in politics, what you would see is a fairly remarkable consistency in trying to watch out for the taxpayer.”

NBC host Savannah Guthrie questioned Sanford, who hewed to his two-pronged message: he had experienced a personal failure but had a political record of successful fiscal conservatism. He’s repeated this message throughout his comeback campaign to Congress in the 1st District, much of which he once represented in the House in the 1990s.

Sanford released his first ad of the race on Monday, in which he made reference to his “mistakes.”

Guthrie pressed Sanford on whether his re-entry to politics was worth it.

Voters will put his proposition to the test in a just a few weeks. Sanford is considered the front-runner in the huge, 15-person GOP primary field, and will likely be one of the top two finishers in the March 19 primary.

But no candidate is expected to receive the more than 50 percent necessary to win the nomination outright. Republicans expect an April 2 runoff, when Sanford will likely find his toughest fight.

Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, is one of two candidates running the Democratic primary. She’s likely to be her party’s nominee, but faces a steep slog in the strongly Republican district.

The 1st District seat, which snakes along much of the South Carolina coast, opened when Republican Gov. Nikki R. Haley appointed then-Rep. Tim Scott, a Republican, to the Senate.

The general election will be May 7.

CQ Roll Call rates the race as Likely Republican.

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