Saturday, March 21, 2009
Sanford's chess move
Since his election in 2002, Mark Sanford has had sort of a love-hate relationship with those who serve in state government with him and those who are politically active in state government. To those circles, Sanford is either a principled guy who stands up for what he believes is right or a self centered rich boy who is dumb as a rock on getting things done. I have always seen him as a man who brought the tactics of one of my favorite games, chess, to politics.
Until now, the general public has had another view of Sanford. That view was mostly positive or indifferent. Sanford’s open collars and cookouts and references to his four boys humanized him to a point where South Carolinians just chuckled if the Governor proposed something that they thought was quirky. Indeed, the quirkiness itself seemed to add to the Governor’s public perception.
That could be changing. Several published reports around the state show that more South Carolinians are getting angry with Governor Sanford on his refusal to accept federal stimulus money. Not since then Governor David Beasley called to remove the Confederate Battle Flag off of the Capital Dome has there been such a furor expressed towards a South Carolina Governor. More and more of this state is growing to either love or hate Mark Sanford.
Typically, a growing love-hate feeling from the people towards a politician is bad news for that politician. Such a situation guarantees a tough election fight to come. However, Sanford has no re-election to seek, and with the two offices he might consider running for, he might benefit from the situation. Like a skilled chess player who will sacrifice a pawn or two to make the move to take out a knight or queen, Sanford is sacrificing short term in state political popularity for the next move.
Some hushed rumors have Sanford considering challenging Jim DeMint for the United States Senate in the 2010 Republican primary. Though unlikely, if Sanford decided to challenge DeMint in the Republican primary, the Governor’s recent acts would give the Governor strong credibility among the party’s right wing. There is no better way to frame a campaign against a sitting Senator then to battle Washington, regardless if DeMint supported the stimulus or not.
Chances are, Sanford has another office in mind. Over the years South Carolina governors always seem to fancy themselves as contenders for the White House or at least the Republican ticket. Sanford is no different. Free from having to face voters in 2010, Sanford can play the national game of chess and make his moves against Obama and for the Republican activists that will be key to his nomination in 2012. While it might not be the best thing for South Carolina today, it is good politics for the Governor in the long run. Sanford’s refusal of the stimulus money is just another chess move. Unfortunately, South Carolinians are the pawns he sacrifices for the big move to come.