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October 25, 2006 | South Carolina Headlines


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Sitting down with Mark Sanford
Jonathan Pait
June 28, 2002

During one of Mark Sanford's first forays into the Upstate, I had opportunity to sit and chat with him. We walked from the Piazzo Bergamo, where he had just finished a press conference, across Main Street to Coffee Underground. With the temperature in the high eighties, it was good to get underground.

The conversation got off to a great start with me learning Mr. Sanford didn't like coffee. As a matter of fact, he has never had coffee. Why? He doesn't like the smell. I asked if he wanted to go elsewhere and he said the location was fine. So I grabbed a cream soda and he a fruit drink.

I settled onto the end of a couch while the candidate reclined in a Queen Anne style chair. He wore his traditional campaign garb--khakis and a casual buttoned shirt. Yes, he was wearing socks.

The reason for our visit was not to try to get the latest scoop. I just wanted to get a feel for the man who was at the center of so many published contradictions. I wanted so much to get him out of the campaign mode and catch him "off message." No one likes to sit down with a campaign commercial.

For the most part it was a success. It wasn't until my last question that he really gave me a "press release" for an answer. My question was, "If you were elected as a monarch and all you had to do was wave your wand and what you wished for would happen, what would you do?" His answer was to repeat what he had just mentioned in the press conference. I know, it was a stupid question anyway.

Now don't think that I am suddenly saying that Mark Sanford is a George W., but they do have something in common. Both of them do not always come across strongly when speaking publicly. However, get one-on-one with one of them and the charisma is evident. It isn't an overwhelming but rather a disarming presence. It leaves you feeling very comfortable.

Regardless of whom you gave your vote in the primary, Sanford is certainly someone that conservatives can get behind. Why? Two points.

1. Most all conservatives are fiscal conservatives. Rarely are there disagreements among Republicans on this front. Sure, they argue over nuances, but not the basics.

Sanford is a conservative that is passionate about fiscal policy. Again, you may not agree with the particulars, but you will be confident he will pursue policy headed in the right direction.

2. Not all conservatives are social conservatives. Probably here is where there is more disagreement among the broad spectrum of conservatives. I would not place Sanford in that category. I realize many would disagree and that is one of the main reasons they voted for another candidate.

Sanford simply is not a "standard-waving" social conservative. I asked him a couple of questions to get at the main social issue over which most people divide. "If you receive a bill advancing abortion in any way, will you veto it?" His reply was simple. "I will." I then asked, "If you receive a bill advancing life in any way, will you sign it?" He replied, "I will."

Sanford can be counted on to lead the troops into battle on fiscal issues. Sanford can be counted on to be the rearguard for social activists. It may not be everything all conservatives are after, but compared to where we stand today--I am with Sanford all the way!

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