S.C. Gov. Went To Argentina, Not Hiking

(AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)
This post was updated at 12:20 p.m. ET

Gov. Sanford will hold a press conference at 2:00 p.m. ET to explain his "exotic" retreat from Washington to Argentina.

Gov. Mark Sanford has returned to South Carolina, but it appears there's a new story about where he went.

Sanford told The State newspaper this morning that he went to Buenos Aires during his mysterious absence from the state. That conflicts with the claim by his staff earlier this week that Sanford had been hiking on the Appalachian trail.

Sanford's communications director, Joel Sawyer, said on Tuesday morning that he had spoken to the governor, who was returning from his trip and had been taken aback by the interest in the story. Sawyer did not indicate then that Sanford had been in Argentina, leaving the Appalachian Trail story in place.

Now, however, the Republican governor says that he had considered going hiking as a break after the state legislative session, but then changed his mind at the last minute.

"I wanted to do something exotic," Sanford told The State. He added that he has previously taken trips to coast of Turkey, the Greek Isles and South America, in order to "get out of the bubble I am in."

Sanford made national headlines on Monday after state lawmakers realized he had been out of pocket since the previous Thursday. Even Sanford's wife said she didn't know where he went. He cut his trip short after he learned of the hoopla.

"I don't know how this thing got blown out of proportion," he said.

Now that Sanford has returned, questions turn to why he left, why the story changed, and what this means for his political career. As for the why, we may find out at a press conference the governor has scheduled for 2 p.m. ET today.

As for Sanford's future, CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris points out that this episode might "inject a dose of reality" into Sanford as he moves forward with a possible 2012 presidential bid. Prior to this week, Sanford had been talked about as one of the frontrunners for the Republican nomination.

"The reality is: as a high-profile politician, privacy is out the window -- political opponents, voters and the media won't accept vague or inaccurate information about one's whereabouts," Chaggaris said.

Chaggaris also explains why this episode has seemed so "strange" to some and how it could hurt Sanford down the road.

"The two strangest aspects of this episode are: 1) the idea that a governor of a state feels he can totally drop off the grid for a week and not tell anyone his whereabouts and 2) the fact that no one in the governor's office could successfully communicate that he simply was taking a vacation to South America," he said.

"If he plans a presidential run, he may want to make sure his staff is fully up to speed on simple questions, to avoid a dustup like this -- one that should be simple to avoid," Chaggaris added.

You can also check out the Associated Press' analysis here on the potential problems for the Republican party that could arise from this.

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