SC Governor Mark Sanford

Will Franklin over at WILLisms profiles South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, a Reagan-esque conservative who I’d love to see throw his hat in the ring for the Republican presidential nomination.

Joel Mowbray at Real Clear Politics took a closer look at Sanford back in December, and here’s some of what he had to say:

But if Republican primary voters decide that the 2008 standard-bearer needs to bring the party back to its Reagan roots, Sanford could be the dark horse to watch. The recently re-elected governor could capture conservatives’ imagination with his unrelenting adherence to core principles. Unlike most GOP governors who either pushed their state parties to the left or simply acquiesced to tax or spending increases passed by legislatures of either party, Sanford has battled profligate Republicans at every turn.

When the state House overrode all but one of his 106 spending line-item vetoes in 2004, Gov. Sanford stormed the Capitol the next morning with a piglet under each arm. Red-faced Republicans squealed, but voters loved the bold move. Realizing they couldn’t be quite as wasteful as their counterparts, the Senate sustained seven of the vetoes–but still overrode 99.

Sanford has been rankling fellow Republicans long before arriving in Columbia. As Congressman from 1995-2001, GOP leadership knew that he was beyond their control. In 1999, he and then-Rep. Tom Coburn (R-OK) used parliamentary procedures to save taxpayers a fortune. The farm spending bill came to the floor with an “open rule”–meaning any germane amendments could be offered. Reps. Sanford and Coburn together drafted 121 fat-trimming amendments, and after trudging through just a few dozen of them, House leadership pulled the entire bill. It was only re-introduced after $1 billion had been carved out.


While his budget cuts have proven quite popular with a public fed up with pork barrel politics, Gov. Sanford doesn’t gear his actions to maximize popularity. As governor, he vetoed earmarked funding for the Special Olympics, on the theory that government should not play favorites among non-profits. On Capitol Hill, he was just one of three Congressmen to oppose taxpayer subsidies for a breast cancer stamp. Looking past the feel-good image of the funding request, Sanford voted against it because most of the money raised was going to go to Post Office administration, with little dedicated to actual breast-cancer research.

South Carolina’s chief executive is also a practical problem solver. When Wall Street was poised to lower the state’s perfect AAA bond rating–over concern for the $155 million budget deficit Hodges left as a parting gift–the MBA-educated governor traveled to New York. He persuaded two of the three main bond-rating agencies to maintain South Carolina’s score, while the third only dropped it one notch, to AA+.


In spite of open opposition from some in the Republican establishment, Sanford won handily, 55-45–the largest margin for any South Carolina gubernatorial or Senate candidate in 16 years. To celebrate defying the GOP old guard and winning, Sanford is about to fight fellow Republicans–again–for more tax cuts.

That this is par for his course is exactly why conservatives, from inside the beltway and out, have been pleading with Sanford to think of the White House–and why his message could resonate with voters.

Sanford’s already said that last year’s SC governor’s race was going to be his ‘last campaign, win or lose’, but maybe as the race for ’08 unofficially starts (and it already has) perhaps he’ll reconsider. A Reagan Republican would be a welcome one for conservatives in 2008.

Update: Speaking of Reagan

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