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Politics Today: Will Sanford Survive The Scandal?

Politics Today is CBSNews.com's inside look at the key stories driving the day in Politics, written by Kevin Hechtkopf:

**Mark Sanford's shocking revelation of an affair…

**President Obama tries to focus on health care…

**Immigration reform on tap for today…

(AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)
Gov. Mark Sanford: The revelation that shocked the political world yesterday came from South Carolina, when the governor admitted that he had an affair.

"I've been unfaithful to my wife, and I developed a relationship with what started as a dear, dear friend from Argentina," Gov. Sanford said during a press conference in the state capital of Columbia.

Sanford had returned to South Carolina from a trip to Buenos Aires on Wednesday morning, and even before the admission of an affair he was the talk of the town for being mysteriously out of pocket for almost a week. He had left last Thursday without telling anyone where he was going, and even misled his staff to think he was going hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

"I've let down a lot of people," Sanford said. "That's the bottom line."

Now the question becomes whether the governor can survive the scandal. While his national aspirations for higher office are clearly over, his spokesman said Sanford had no plans to resign his post as governor. However, he did resign his post as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

"Though Sanford frequently has fought with lawmakers, state leaders largely held their fire Wednesday," writes Clif LeBlanc And John O'Connor in The State newspaper.

"But some said the governor's actions were unacceptable. He left the country and deliberately made himself unavailable ... he misled his staff who unknowingly misled the public," Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler said in a statement. "We cannot let the Governor's personal life overshadow his public responsibility, or in this case, his negligence of gubernatorial authority."

"Others reiterated the need to clarify state law about when a governor should hand over power if traveling, ill or disabled. Some are wondering if Sanford now lacks the standing to lead the state during a troubled economy and should resign. 'The state needs someone who can be effective,' said Greenville-based consultant Chip Felkel. 'I don't think Mark can be effective at all.'"

"Those who've worked in previous gubernatorial administrations say the fallout from Sanford's bizarre Appalachian Trail hike-turned-Argentine tango will be significant, long-lasting and extended," writes Robert Behre and Schuyler Kropf of the Post and Courier in Charleston.

(AP Photo )
"'He's damaged the government's part of this crisis,' said Bob McAlister, former chief of staff to Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. A huge credibility gap — one Sanford allowed to linger for days — now exists throughout the administration. It will prompt every trooper, teacher, bureaucrat and voter to reassess anything Sanford says or does. It could affect a business sector leader's decisions to meet with him."

The graphic e-mails released by The State won't help his cause and just add fuel to the still growing fire.

"The e-mails also match much of what Sanford said at his Wednesday news conference: That his sexual relationship with the Argentine woman grew from a much-longer friendship, that it started about a year ago and that the woman has two sons," writes John O'Connor in The State.

"From Sanford's e-mail address to the woman: 'I could digress and say that you have the ability to give magnificently gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines or that I love the curves of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself) in the faded glow of night's light — but hey, that would be going into the sexual details ...'"

Is Sanford in legal trouble? The Wall Street Journal examines that question.

William Cook, a constitutional law professor at Charleston School of Law in Charleston, told the Journal's Law Blog that the state's constitution doesn't indicate direct legal trouble.

"Our state constitution is largely silent on this issue — whether and under what circumstances the governor can travel inside or outside our state. It just doesn't speak to it. Nor does the constitution include any provisions that require the governor to notify anyone before, say, he leaves the state or the country. So I think that for the most part, the consequences appear to be political, not legal."

However, Alan Tarr, the director of the Center for State Constitutional Studies at Rutgers University, points out to the Journal's Ashby Jones that impeachment is a possibility, but that it is political rather than legal consequence.

"According to Tarr, the South Carolina constitution gives 'unusually broad' removal powers to the legislature. Not only can the legislature impeach a governor for 'serious crimes or serious misconduct in office,' it can also remove a governor in a process called 'address' for any 'willful neglect of duty' or 'other reasonable cause which shall not be sufficient ground of impeachment.'"

Congressional Quarterly's Emily Cadei reports that Democrats weren't yet calling for Sanford's resignation, according to South Carolina Democratic Party Executive Director Jay Parmley.

"'I think it's going to take some time for all this to set in,' Parmley said."

One of the questions sure to be asked in the coming days is whether Sanford used state money for any of his rendezvous. Politico's Kenneth P. Vogel takes an early look at that question.

"South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has taken at least three taxpayer-paid trips to Argentina, however, it's unclear whether he met his girlfriend during any of them," Vogel writes.

(AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)
"At his news conference in Columbia Wednesday, Sanford said he paid for his most recent trip with is own money. 'It was my own ticket,' he told reporters.

"But sometime after his 2002 election as governor, Sanford traveled to Argentina on the dime of the South Carolina Department of Commerce. Though it's unclear precisely when the trip occurred, it likely would have taken place after he had met the woman. Sanford said Wednesday he met the woman eight years ago, though a romantic relationship did not develop until one year ago."

The Washington Post's Dan Balz writes about the national implications: "But Sanford's story is more than personal. For a Republican Party down on its luck, the governor's disappearance and subsequent rambling apology to his wife, his family, his close friends and all the people of South Carolina draw more unwelcome publicity to a party that needs but cannot seem to get any good news."

"Coming a week after Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) admitted to an extramarital affair, the scandal will impact the Republicans in several ways. First, it further damages the GOP brand, potentially driving away more voters or at least making it more difficult to win back some of those who abandoned the party in the past two elections. Second, it could disillusion social and religious conservatives -- a critically important part of the Republican coalition -- who may now wonder whether those who share the Republican label truly share their values. Third, the Sanford saga removes one more new-generation GOP leader from the field of prospective 2012 candidates, adding to doubts about the strength of the party's bench."

The New York Times' Jim Rutenberg connects Sanford with other possible Republican presidential contenders who have had stumbles in the last few months.

"That series of problems has become so chronic that even the party's most pragmatic members could be forgiven for wondering whether being named "possible 2012 contender" is like winning the movie role of Superman, long believed by some to carry a curse for those actors who don his blue tights," he writes.

The State's Gina Smith, "Hunch leads to airport and tired, troubled Sanford"

CBS Affiliate WLTX, "Politicians React to Sanford's Affair"

Statement from Jenny Sanford

CBS News' Steve Chaggaris, "Analysis: GOP Rising Stars Falling To Earth"

CBS News and The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder, "Political Fallout From Sanford's Affair"

New York Times, "How Do Politicians Survive Sex Scandals?"


(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Obama And Health Care: The revelations about Sanford overshadowed President Obama's push for health care reform, highlighted by a special town hall at the White House which aired on ABC.

"President Obama took to the airwaves to make his case for healthcare reform Wednesday night, seeking to assure middle-class voters that his plans would not disrupt what they already have," writes The Hill's Jeffrey Young.

"The televised town-hall-style event, recorded at the White House and aired exclusively by ABC News, provided Obama with an opportunity to persuade middle-class voters, most of whom are insured, that his plans would not destroy what they like about the healthcare system."

The Associates Press' Ricardo Alonso-Zalvidar leads with Mr. Obama leaving the door open to taxing employer-provided health care benefits.

"Senior senators said Wednesday the benefits tax could be essential for the complex plan to be fully financed. "I don't want to prejudge what they're doing," Obama said, referring to proposals in the Senate to tax workers who get expensive insurance policies. Obama, who campaigned against the tax when he ran for president, drew a quick rebuff from organized labor."

CBSNews.com's Stephanie Condon: "Mr. Obama used the town hall forum to defend the idea of comparative effectiveness research, a potential part of health care reform in which more support would be given for research-backed treatment. Members of the 164-person audience questioned, though, whether the government should be involved in determining what treatments are worth paying for.

"'Those decisions,' he said, 'if they're not being made by Medicare and Medicaid, they're being made by private insurers.' The president spoke about how his mother and her doctors had to decide whether she should receive a hip replacement, even after she had been diagnosed with cancer. Those decisions, he said, should be left up to patients and doctors -- not bureaucracies -- and be based on science."

ABC News's Jake Tapper And Karen Travers, "President Obama Defends Right to Choose Best Care"

Los Angeles Times' Peter Nicholas, "Obama discusses deathbed measures"

NYT's Robert Pear and Jeff Zeleny, "Senators Worry That Health Overhaul Could Erode Employer Insurance Plans"

Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown, "House Dems release health care outline"


(CBS/AP)
Immigration Reform: Mr. Obama and Vice President Biden will meet this afternoon with a group of senators and representatives, both Democrats and Republicans, to discuss immigration. The White House says the meeting is "intended to launch a policy conversation by having an honest discussion about the issues and identifying areas of agreement and areas where we still have work to do, with the hope of beginning the debate in earnest later this year."

Meanwhile, "Senate Democrats outlined plans yesterday to overhaul the nation's immigration laws, including a requirement that all U.S. workers verify their identity through fingerprints or an eye scan," reports the Washington Post's Spencer S. Hsu.

"Speaking on the eve of a White House summit with congressional leaders on immigration, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) said a national system to verify work documents is necessary because Congress has failed to crack down on unscrupulous employers and illegal immigrants with fake documents. …

"By announcing his plans, Schumer, who chairs the Senate's main immigration subcommittee, ushered in what President Obama has signaled will be his next major legislative campaign, after the economic stimulus plan, health care and energy."

But The Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman points out the obstacles to an immigration bill passing this year.

"The effort faces stiff headwinds: a Washington agenda already packed with other priorities; a recession making Americans nervous about the job market; and the sidelining of the most vocal champions of an immigration overhaul," he writes.

How much political capital the president is willing to use on immigration reform is also a question, as the New York Times reports.

"There is the question of whether it is Congress or the White House that will take the lead," writes the Times' Ginger Thompson and David M. Herzenhorn.

"Aides to Mr. Obama say he does not intend to get out in front of any proposal until there is a strong bipartisan commitment to pass it. That stance has the potential to paralyze the process, since lawmakers are looking to him to use his bully pulpit, and high approval ratings, to help them fend off any political backlash among their constituents."

Also Today: The president and first lady will promote their "United We Serve" community service initiative by joining hundreds of Congressional family members and nonprofit organizations at Fort McNair to prepare 15,000 backpacks with books, healthy snacks, Frisbees and other items for the children of servicemen and women.

Mr. Obama also has meetings with Secretary of Treasury Tim Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and he will host a luau at the White House for members of Congress and their families.


(AP/Office of the Supreme Leader)
Iran:

NYT' Nazila Fathi and Alan Cowell, "Ahmadinejad Assails Obama as Opposition Urges Defiance"

New York Times' Helene Cooper, "Bit by Careful Bit, Obama Toughens Stance on Iran"

Washington Post's Glenn Kessler, Iran Envoys Disinvited From July 4 Festivities


Sonia Sotomayor:

NYT's Benjamin Weiser, "In '98, Hints From Sotomayor on Death Penalty"

Los Angeles Times' James Oliphant and David G. Savage, "GOP to press Sotomayor on gun rights"

The Hill's J. Taylor Rushing, "Specter to nudge Sotomayor on SCOTUS cameras"

Congressional Quarterly's Seth Stern, "Sotomayor Already Facing Three 'No' Votes"

CBSNews.com's Stephanie Condon, "Sotomayor Gets A Birthday Party"

4897337Energy: Washington Post's Steven Mufson and Jennifer Agiesta, "Poll: Limits on Emissions Have Wide Support

Associated Press' H. Josef Hebert, "House Dems close to climate agreement"

LAT's Paul West, "Obama promotes climate-change bill in face of conflicting figures"

Politico's Lisa Lerer, "For moderates, it's not easy being green"

Economy:

NYT's Edmund L. Andrews and Louise Story, "G.O.P. to Paint Bernanke as Big Government Ally"

WSJ's Kris Maher, "Mayors Targeted as Economic Pain Fuels Recall Bids"

LAT's Jim Puzzanghera, "House split over new consumer agency"

McClatchy's Margaret Talev, "States move quickly to put highway stimulus funds to work"

Obama Administration:

CBS News' Peter Maer, "White House Defends Huffington Post Question"

Associated Press' Steven R. Hurst, "Obama, Merkel to meet under cloud of disagreement"

Future Races:

2012 President: The Hill's Aaron Blake and Reid Wilson, "Barbour makes his national debut, Part II"

2012 President: Anchorage Daily News' Sean Cockerham, "Pew poll: Palin popular among Republicans but polarizing"

2010 PA Senate: Philadelphia Daily News' Bob Warner, "Poll: Specter's numbers dive since 'conversion'"

2010 LA Senate: The Hill's Aaron Blake, "Melancon gets ready to put Vitter's 'serious sin' on trial"

2010 NY Senate: Congressional Quarterly, "Undecided' Leads Among New York Democrats"

2010 TX Governor: Houston Chronicle's Peggy Fikac And Gary Scharrer, "Schieffer announces run for Texas governor"

2010 Governors: CQ's Rachel Kapochunas, "Democrats Tout Four States as Takeovers in Governor Races"


ETC:

CBS News' Sarah Dutton and Kathleen Frankovic, "Why Polling Doesn't Match Election Results"

Washington Post's Lois Romano, "A First Lady Who Demands Substance"

Washington Post's Anita Kumar, "Va. Governor Kaine's Travel Is Hard to Pin Down"

The Associated Press' Michael Gormley, "NY Senate coup leaves policy, dignity in its wake"

NYT's Andrea Fuller, "A Jonas on Capitol Hill"