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Analysis: GOP Rising Stars Falling To Earth

(CBS)
Gov. Mark Sanford's, R-S.C., tearful admission of an extramarital affair comes on the heels of Sen. John Ensign's, R-Nev., similar admission last week and is the second potential 2012 presidential candidate to announce such a revelation. As in the case of Ensign, it's safe to say that Sanford's future as a presidential candidate is all but over.

If there's a concern for the Republican Party, it's not that these admissions will have an effect on the various races that will take place this year and in next year's midterm elections. It's that they're losing some of their fresh faces as potential national voices.

Both the 49-year-old Sanford and the 51-year-old Ensign's admissions come at a time when the GOP is struggling to find the next generation of voices to combat a Democratic president and Congress.

And it's not just Ensign and Sanford but other fresh faces have been affected for less salacious reasons.

Former Gov. Jon Huntsman, R-Utah, was being talked about as a potential 2012 presidential hopeful. His recent appointment as U.S. Ambassador to China by President Obama was considered a political savvy move to pre-empt the up-and-comer possible bid.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe praised Huntsman as making him a "wee bit queasy…I think he's really out there speaking a lot of truth about the direction of the party."

Meantime, 37-year-old Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., is another that has been considered a rising star – young, smart and a minority – but has been silenced in recent months. His widely panned response to Mr. Obama's address to a joint session of Congress has resulted in a much lower profile nationally for Jindal.

At a time when the GOP is trying to turn the page on the drubbing they experienced in 2008, losing those numerous new voices is not the direction they want to be headed.

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Steve Chaggaris is CBS News' Political Director.

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