Joel Stein’s Latest, “The Fall and Rise of Mark Sanford”

Can a onetime conservative hero climb back from disgrace? Joel Stein says that in South Carolina, anything is possible.

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Randall Hill / REUTERS

Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch looks over at former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford during the South Carolina 1st Congresional debate in Charleston, South Carolina April 29, 2013.

Politics in the Palmetto State is “more tangled than a backyard of kudzu,” writes Joel Stein in this week’s magazine story about the special election between disgraced former governor Mark Sanford and Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert.

“It would not take a rocket scientist to say politics was over for me,” Sanford tells Stein, in a bit of understatement highlighted only by the fact that Sanford still believes politics is not over for him. “We take sinners out in body bags in South Carolina.”

After spending a day in Charleston at a farmers’ market, Pat Conroy lunch and crab festival with Colbert Busch, Stein describes the Democrat as a “smart, likeable 58 year-old in a leopard-print car jacket with blown-out highlighted hair and an easy laugh.” Colbert Busch, he continues, is someone who has “Never said anything dumb. Or interesting.”

Sanford, on the other hand, is 52, “Long-faced, a little too tan, teeth a shade too white, his pleated khakis two decades out of style” and “immensely charming.” He “touches your arm in a way that doesn’t feel invasive,” and did an “insane thing” by re-entering politics after an extra-marital affair led him to flee the state without telling his aides to visit his mistress in Argentina.

The election will be held May 7. To read the whole story, click here. If you are not a subscriber, subscribe. It’s $30 for 53 issues of the magazine, and full access to all of our content online and on your tablet computer.