Mark Sanford leaves the South Carolina governor's mansion next week a 50-year-old divorcee whose adultery ground his race toward political rock stardom to a screeching, sobbing halt. But though he's free to head out on the Appalachian trail for real this time, the AP notes in an exit interview that Sanford also leaves a valuable legacy: He successfully weathered calls for his resignation, chosen successor Nikki Haley will take the governor's oath, and the Tea Party has firmly latched onto his preachings of fiscal responsibility. His mid-life crisis, say friends, is mercifully over. So what's next?
Sanford himself speaks vaguely of writing a book or going back into business. "It's an interesting spot to be at, because my nature is always to have a next plan, but on this one I don't," he says. And what about a return to politics? "The mishap of June of 2009 just shattered his trajectory upward," said a friend recently. "But I don't think it's over." Murmurs Sanford, "I've also learned in life is you never say never."