For now, Mark Sanford is still the governor of South Carolina, and he's given every indication he wants to keep that job, at least until his term runs out at the beginning of 2011. (Under state law, he's limited to two terms and so can't run in 2010.) And no one who could really force him from office is talking impeachment -- at least not yet. But there are some rumblings, and some talk that maybe if he's not actually removed from office, he'll have to resign.
Former South Carolina Republican Chairman Katon Dawson, who ran unsuccessfully for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee earlier this year, predicted Wednesday that there'd be some people in the state asking Sanford to resign. "That call will come at a fevered pitch shortly," Dawson told Politico. And though he wouldn't say whether he personally wanted Sanford to resign, Dawson did say, "Character and integrity matter to our party .... It's important to hold our leaders accountable, and Gov. Sanford has flunked that test."
South Carolina's lieutenant governor, Andre Bauer, similarly declined to give his thoughts on whether Sanford should resign. But he did say he's prepared to step in to the governor's shoes if it comes to that.
Meanwhile, an unnamed "Republican strategist with ties to South Carolina" who spoke with the National Review's Jim Geraghty said Sanford wouldn't get a choice on the matter. "He's going to have to resign," the strategist told Geraghty. "It's South Carolina."
So far, Sanford's rivals in the state legislature -- Republican and Democrat -- aren't letting loose with both rhetorical barrels. They're waiting, so as not to seem callous, but it seems like they're getting ready to move in some fashion, and it's likely to be the governor's absence, not his infidelity, that will become the prime issue. "No lawmaker uttered the word 'impeachment,'" The State, a South Carolina newspaper, reports. "But most left the impression an apology may not be enough."
Some of the reaction may also depend on whether there are any further damaging revelations about Sanford's affair. The next place people will look is at his trips to Argentina, as well as any other trips he might have made to meet up with his girlfriend, in order to see if taxpayer money subsidized his liasons. There are already some early hints that might have been the case.