Sanford Not Looking Back as SC Primary Approaches

Published Jan 20, 2012. By Bruce Smith. In The Associated Press.

This might have been Mark Sanford's week if things had gone differently.

Once a rising star in the Republican Party, the former South Carolina governor was often mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in this year's election. In the key South Carolina GOP primary on Saturday, Sanford would have been the hometown favorite.

But talk of the presidency ended almost three years ago when the then-married Sanford disappeared for five days _ his aides telling reporters he was out walking on the Appalachian Trail _ and returned to acknowledge an affair with an Argentine woman.

The affair ended Sanford's marriage to his wife Jenny, who later wrote a tell-all book about their marriage. Sanford faced state impeachment hearings in 2009 after the state Ethics Commission looked into his use of state planes, campaign cash and first-class travel stemming from the affair. The Republican-dominated House issued a formal rebuke. Sanford was fined and reimbursed the state for the investigation and other expenses.

So as the weekend primary loomed, instead of campaigning for president, Sanford on Thursday was speaking on the need to get the nation's financial house in order before cadets at The Citadel and students at the College of Charleston.

He paused for a time and reflected when asked by the AP if he has regrets this week about what might have been.

"A number of folks have called both from in the state and around the country on that point. I don't think you can spend a lot of time looking backward in life or you could drive yourself crazy. So it's not something I focus on but it is something a number of buddies have brought up and reminded me of," the former governor said.

"I just don't think you can spend a lot of time in reverse. You have the day you're in and the day before you and that's sort of where I'm focused," he added.

Asked if he thought there is any chance he might get back into politics, Sanford said "it's not where I believe life is headed for me but I certainly know you never say never about a lot of things. It's certainly not my intent, it's not my plan and I don't see that being the next step of life."

While he's not campaigning, Sanford is not far from the political fray, serving as a television commentator for Fox News through the General Election.

"It's nice to be back and involved," he said.

Sanford appeared with former United States Comptroller General David Walker, the founder of the Comeback America Initiative and with Robert Bixby, the executive director of The Concord Coalition. Both groups work to educate the public on need to get lawmakers to get the nation's finances in order and say that current government spending is unsustainable.

"Both political parties are to blame," Walker said. "Spending has been out of control for the past 10 years when we have had both parties control the House and the Senate and both parties control the White House."

"This is not about mathematics, it's really about your future," Sanford told the cadets. "This isn't about am I going to pay a little more on my tax return and get a little less in government services. It's about whether your children are going to be able to sustain the American way of life.