Although politics in the Palmetto State are usually pretty odd, the past week has been especially strange for the residents of South Carolina. Last week, observers noticed that the state’s conservative governor, Republican Mark Sanford, had vanished from the halls of the state capital in Columbia. After several days of confused speculation, the governor’s aides announced that Sanford had taken one of his regular hikes of the Appalachian Trail. Of course, this wasn’t at all helpful; the trail begins in Maine and extends 2000 miles down the east coast. Saying that Sanford was on the Appalachian Trail was about as specific as saying that Sanford was in the country somewhere. As it turns out though, Sanford’s aides didn’t even have their information straight. He wasn’t hiking the trail, indeed, Sanford wasn’t even in the country; the governor had gone for a brief, unannounced faction to South America (via The Fix):
The news — first reported by the State newspaper — that Gov. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) had spent the last six days in Argentina not, as his staff had previously said, hiking the Appalachian Trail turns what was a bad story for the governor’s future political prospects into an out-and-out public relations disaster.
“I don’t know how this thing got blown out of proportion,” said Sanford upon his return stateside, explaining that he had mentioned to his staff that he might be going hiking along the Appalachian Trail last Thursday before changing his mind at the last minute. Asked why his staff released a statement Monday night saying that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, Sanford told the State: “I don’t know.”
If Sanford decides to run for president (and he has been floated as a potential candidate), my guess is that most Americans won’t be too thrilled about the possibility of a disappearing chief executive.