Mark Sanford's extraordinary press conference leads to a number of questions about what happens next to a governor and former congressman who was once considered one of the brightest stars of the Republican party. It was a deeply embarrassing and painful moment and one that seemed to answer all of the questions that have been looming. But there are still others:
1. Will pressure grow on him to resign the governorship? Sanford said he'd quit as chair of the Republican Governors Association but will pressure gather from South Carolinians, the state's Republicans and editorial pages for him to quit his office? And if so what's the case against Sanford: Leaving town without telling anyone?
2. Will South Carolina public opinion rally to him? It's not at all clear to me that the public will lash out against Sanford. If they stick by him and his wife doesn't seek a legal separation or divorce then will the politicians follow?
3, Will Sanford be able to execute the duties of his office in the coming days? Is he going to be able to get back to work today and tomorrow? Part of what saved Bill Clinton was the sense that he was going back to work. The public was willing to forgive him and punish the excesses of the GOP. This sticking-to-work ethos saved Rudy Giuliani, too.
4. Was taxpayer money used to continue the affair? It probably isn't a good sign that he seems to have taken a state vehicle to the airport in Atlanta. I imagine Democrats in the South Carolina legislature won't have the appetite for an audit. But they might.
5. Will Sanford staff resign? They were basically lied to, although Sanford was a little weasly about that part, suggesting that he was really weighing the Applachian Trail as an option. If his staff quits on him for misleading them, that could get things rolling. Of course, Roland Burris's chief of staff quit and he's still in the Senate.
Figuring out who survives and who doesn't is a hard political game to get right. David Vitter seems in pretty good shape for his reelection in Louisiana despite his admitting, more or less, to cavorting with a prostitute which is not only untoward but illegal. Rudy Giuliani was done in by many things in his presidential bid but his affairs were not the coup de grace. Roland Burris is still in the Senate; Larry Craig isn't. I really wouldn't venture to guess how this plays out in the coming day.