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The Buenos Aires Affair: Will Sanford’s Admission Take Heat off Ensign?

When South Carolina Gov. and potential GOP presidential nominee Mark Sanford disappeared this past week, his aides claimed he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Turns out he was hiking up a skirt in the Argentine Gap.

Sanford, a dad of four, must have grown tired of receiving those sappy Father’s Day cards because he disappeared on Father’s Day weekend. His whereabouts were unknown to his wife even as Web reports reported a Sanford sighting at an Atlanta airport.

Now Sanford has admitted he wasn’t getting blisters on the rugged road. He was hitting the happy trail in Argentina with a girlfriend. Sanford was met by reporters at the airport and quickly admitted his affair.

Hey, at least it wasn’t with his wife’s best friend or a campaign staffer, right?

The question for us today is not whether Sanford can be salvaged politically, but whether this turn of the national media’s head from Nevada to South Carolina helps embattled Sen. John Ensign, whose affair was in the process of being found out by the press when he rushed back to Las Vegas to issue a statement to the press. Ensign has since apologized to his Senate GOP colleagues and continued to play the political coward with reporters. (Who knows, perhaps he’s lining up a friendly interview with Fox News as this is written.)

The short answer is, this can only help Ensign, who in part due to his unwillingness to actually face the public has become grist for late-night comics and smart alecks like me.

The problem is, the Sanford’s admission also gives the press something to compare Ensign’s semi-sincere mea culpa to: And the Nevada Senator doesn’t measure up as well, in my opinion.

Forget the small details, such as the fact Sanford didn’t nail the hired help and a close friend of the family. Sanford just plain looked a helluva lot more candid and less politically packaged as he met the media.

Sanford also said he planned to spend the coming months traveling through South Carolina apologizing to the people for his actions and asking their forgiveness.

Not so Ensign, who seems to think he can hide out in the Senate the way his critics say he’s hidden all these years.

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