August 17, 2008
Gov. Mark Sanford didn't actually say "dude" when we met recently at the Hyatt in New York City. But the South Carolina Republican did ask, "Have you seen my video on YouTube?"
The governor was waiting at the Hyatt without a politician's usual retinue and we walked over to the hotel's restaurant, only to find it was closed. "Let's make our way inside anyway and sit until someone yells at us," he said. The YouTube video was his speech at the South Carolina GOP convention in May, in which he laid out why the Republican Party has found itself in the minority in Washington. In it, he says: "The crisis of what's happened in Washington, D.C. is born not because of the rank-and-file not knowing what they believe, but because of its political leadership, at times, being completely disconnected from the core beliefs of what the party is all about."
"An optimist would say" the party has productively used these past two years in the political wilderness to learn from its mistakes, he tells me now. "But there's not a lot of room for optimism" in the party's performance so far. One way of looking at the GOP, he adds, is as "nothing more than a brand" -- a brand that was badly eroded in the last few years through reckless spending and undisciplined politics.
But he's also quick to add that the solution is not some charismatic Obama-like newcomer to buff up the party's image. A salesman who knows his product and believes in his product, he says, is always more effective than one who is all flash and no substance. Though Mr. Sanford annoyed some in the McCain camp by standing by a pledge to remain neutral in the South Carolina primary, his name was still touted as a veep possibility. The South Carolina press once again played taps for his hopes after he was widely seen flubbing a question from CNN's Wolf Blitzer about differences between Mr. McCain and President Bush on economics -- though we met him not long before his CNN performance and noticed that he seemed exhausted. (Maybe the lesson is that he should just get more sleep.)
In any case, the popular governor -- a strong supporter of school choice, low taxes, spending restraint and economic growth -- is an attractive up-and-comer who understands what the modern GOP stands for. You can see his video here. Mr. McCain would do well to check it out too before making his choice.
-- Brendan Miniter