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Greefield On Sanford, GOP's Future

(AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford admitted today that he had an affair with a woman in Argentina. The GOP star and rumored 2012 presidential contender had been missing for several days, drawing national media attention as his staff issued a series of oblique and contradictory statements about his whereabouts.

CBS News senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield discussed today's revelations with anchor Katie Couric on the CBS Evening News Wednesday.

Couric/>: Jeff, clearly there's no "good" time for a story like this one to emerge, but this is a particularly case of bad timing for Republicans, isn't it?

Greenfield: For the second time in a week you've had a prominent Republican forced to step down from a party leadership post because they had to confess adultery. Gov. Sanford today – Sen. John Ensign of Nevada just last week, who left his post as a head of the Republican Senate Policy Committee. And the two stories kind of feed on each other. It's not one plus one equaling two.

Couric/>: A lot of this is about 2012 and the next presidential election – who's going to be the nominee. But what is the short-term political fallout for this, Jeff?

Greenfield: I think for the first time Republicans are seeing some vulnerability with president Obama. Some poll numbers make the point. While his approval ratings remain high, some doubts are growing about whether he can control the budget deficit, whether he's spending too much. We've seen poll numbers that suggest independents are losing a little bit of their faith in him because they see him maybe as more of a liberal. But how do the Republicans make this point when this thing has become such a soap opera? It sounds like some of their folks are trying to replace "Jon & Kate Plus Eight."

And if you look at 2012, you have Ensign and Sanford, obviously, away from the picture now. You had Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, the governor – very poor notices because of that response to the State of the Union. Newt Gingrich has had to backtrack from some of his comments about Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor and Jon Huntsman, the governor of Utah, nothing happened bad for him except that President Obama has made him ambassador to China, so he's out of the picture. They'll find somebody.

Couric: Can Gov. Sanford survive this and stay governor?

Greenfield: I think at the end of his tour we're going to find out whether people regard him as Bill Clinton or Eliot Spitzer, Katie.

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