Leadership Problems: 10
After his now infamous sojourn to Buenos Aires to visit his mistress, Gov. Mark Sanford (R) returned to South Carolina in a drastically weaker position than when he left. He had already alienated many in his state with his effort -- blocked by the courts -- to decline certain federal stimulus monies. Then he irked political leaders and constituents by leaving the state for several days without providing forwarding information. Finally, after his return, Sanford inexplicably volunteered to journalists a wealth of details about his unsettled personal life.
"He continues to be held in less-than-glowing stature by Republican and Democratic members of the legislature, as he has frittered away multiple opportunities to partner with them and build trust," said Andy Brack, who publishes the South Carolina Statehouse Report, a political newsletter.
Rather amazingly, some in South Carolina have decided that, despite all this baggage, the state would be better served by having Sanford stay on, rather than resign and hand the governorship to Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer. While Bauer is credited with being a skilled campaigner, many in the state see him as unseasoned in policymaking, and they worry about a few widely reported incidents in which he got away with speeding on state highways, allegedly because he pulled rank. Bauer is one of a number of Republicans who are interested in running for governor when the seat opens up in 2010.
Aside from questions about whether Sanford used state funds while visiting his mistress, there has been no suggestion that any of South Carolina's recent tribulations are anything more than moral transgressions.
Statewide Challenges: 7
At 12.1 percent, unemployment in South Carolina ranks third in the nation and No. 1 in the South. The Palmetto State ranks among the five worst states in such measures as infant mortality, premature births, stroke, diabetes, smoking prevention and violent crime, according to statistics compiled by Brack.
"State highways are in terrible shape," said Jack Bass, a political scientist at the College of Charleston. "Public schools and state higher education institutions both remain seriously underfunded."
Media Circus: 9
The Sanford story caught fire internationally and bequeathed a new euphemism -- "hiking the Appalachian Trail" -- to the English language. But as Sanford looks more and more likely to stay put, South Carolina has already begun to return to normalcy.
TOTAL DYSFUNCTIONALITY: 7