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Five reasons Mark Sanford might last as South Carolina governor

South Carolina's embattled governor, Mark Sanford, could yet face impeachment, but he got a lift this week when most ethics charges against him were dropped.

By Staff writer / December 4, 2009

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, left, and first lady Jenny Sanford, right, welcome guests at the Governor's Mansion in Columbia, S.C., for a Christmas Open House on Thursday.

Brett Flashnick/AP

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Atlanta

Now that a South Carolina impeachment panel has dropped the bulk of charges against Gov. Mark Sanford, the embattled pol seems to have won a major victory in his refusal to yield control of the governor's mansion.

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What began when the governor went missing in June, ostensibly on a hiking trip in the Appalachians, turned into a potentially impeachable offense when he returned five days later from Argentina, fresh from an extramarital affair. Since then, political opponents dredged up what would become fodder for an impeachment attempt, which could still come Monday.

But on Thursday, the ammunition for the impeachment – charges that Mr. Sanford misused state travel funds and a state plane – largely fell apart as a House impeachment panel dismissed 28 of the 37 ethics complaints about the governor's use of travel funds.

"Much of it, we don't believe, constitutes a violation at all," said the committee chairman, state Rep. James Harrison (R). "The ones that might constitute a violation don't rise to the level of impeachment."

In that light, here are five reasons Sanford, a Republican, just might survive to see the end his term:

The love letters. The governor's emotional attachment to former Argentinian TV anchor Maria Chapur, while inappropriate, seems genuine and deep – a factor that may have made him a more sympathetic figure in the eyes of some South Carolinians.

The Daily Beast's Janice Min, in a story on celebrity mistresses, noted that "Mark Sanford’s choice of a somewhat age-appropriate, apparently educated and sophisticated professional he called his 'soulmate' [is] almost unheard of."

His letters to her, published by The State newspaper in June, are full of references to Ms. Chapur's glowing eyes and "the special nature of your soul."

The big Boeing deal. A big criticism of Sanford's tenure has been that South Carolina is steadily losing ground to neighbors like Georgia and North Carolina on the economic development front, and its unemployment rate ranks among the highest in the South.

But the announcement in late October of Boeing's decision to move a big plant and as many as 4,000 jobs to North Charleston undercuts that argument – especially because the state, including the governor, played a big role in providing incentives that swayed the aeronautical giant's decision.

Seattle Weekly quoted state Rep. Kenny Bingham saying, "I think our focus is going to be moving South Carolina forward." Quipped the SW: "Roughly translated [that] comes to: It's probably not smart to waste our time reminding the country that our highest elected official cheats on his wife."