In the first meeting with his Cabinet since admitting to an extramarital affair, embattled South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford apologized to his staff for letting them down and stressed that they must continue fulfilling their duties.
"Based on the way that I've disapppointed my wife, my boys, close friends, family, South Carolinians at large, there's always a question you have to ask yoursel: What does it all mean?" Sanford told his staff.
Invoking the Bible -- as he commonly does -- the governor told his Cabinet that they still had to fulfill their responsibilities "whether I get it right or wrong on a given day."
Compared to his emotional appearance at Wednesday's press conference, Sanford was much more composed Friday. After the meeting, he laughed and mingled with his staff but declined to take questions from the press.
South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who is widely known to dislike the governor, told The Associated Press he met with Sanford Thursday but the two men did not discuss the possibility of resignation. Bauer is one of the many contenders eyeing the governor's seat in 2010. He told the AP that Sanford should stay in office but admitted that he would have an advantage in the election if Sanford resigned.
Experts say taking over the governorship would give Bauer the advantage of incumbency during next year's elections, which would boost his name recognition give him the opportunity to rake in big donations. But at the same time, he would be presiding over a state with rising unemployment and could face immense pressure to turn around South Carolina's economy in a year.
"It's not an unmixed blessing," said Robert Oldendick, an executive director and professor at the University of South Carolina, adding that state lawmakers, including Sanford, are likely still in the process of figuring out their game plans.
It "depends on how events played out. We don't know enough at this point," Oldendick added.
Some state lawmakers say Republicans have opposing interests in Sanford's resignation. Attorney General Henry McMaster is also considered a front-runner in the Palmetto State's elections next year. In the absence of the Senate -- which does not convene until January -- McMaster's office is the only one that can call an investigation into whether Sanford used taxpayer money or breached ethics rules to finance trips he took to meet his mistress in Argentina. But for now, that looks unlikely.
J. Todd Rutherford, a Democrat in the South Carolina House of Representatives, said Sanford's resignation or an impeachment would hurt McMaster's chances if Bauer, his possible opponent, is elevated to the gubernatorial seat -- a concern silently echoed by other possible candidates.
Sanford faced intense media pressure after revealing the details of his affair and asking for forgiveness in a Wednesday news conference, but he told reporters on Thursday that he was not considering resigning. The sudden death of singer Michael Jackson Thursday afternoon has since consumed much of the media coverage and perhaps given the governor some time out of the spotlight to regain his political footing.