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South Carolina Governor Sanford (R) holds a press conference Wednesday afternoon after disappearing for 6 days. Initial reports out of the governor's office said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, but he was actually in Buenos Aires, Argentina. See the definitive TPM timeline on the missing governor here.

Newscom/KRT



The wife:
Jenny Sanford, who has actively campaigned with her husband and been a political player in South Carolina for some 20-odd years, put out a statement late Wednesday afternoon saying she asked Sanford to leave two weeks ago. She has been vacationing with their four sons at the couple's Sullivan's Island beach house for the duration of Sanford's absence. She told the press on Monday, June 22 that she was not concerned, that Sanford only needed "time away from the kids to write something," and on Tuesday, June 23, she told CNN she still had not heard from him.


Newscom/The State/Renee Ittner-McManus



The enemy:
State Senator John "Jake" Knotts has been flagging suspicion about Sanford's absence at least since Saturday, June 20. While Sanford was still missing, he issued multiple critical statements asking who is in power of the state government, talked to several media outlets, and called the SLED chief himself to check up on the issue.


.gov



The second in command:
Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer (seen here presiding over the state Senate) was not told about the Governor's trip to Argentina and was even refused chances to speak with him on the phone earlier this week.

Newscom/The State/Erik Campos



The intrepid reporter:
Gina Smith, a reporter for South Carolina newspaper The State, tracked Sanford down at the Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta, Georgia this morning. She asked him a few questions after he got off the plane from Buenos Aires, including that he considered actually hiking the Appalachian Trail, but he "wanted to do something exotic" instead.


MSNBC



Sanford, pictured at the Hartsfield-Jackson airport.

Newscom/The State/Gina Smith



The house:
The alleged apartment of the woman who Sanford had an affair with lives on Republica de la India in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires.

Newscom/MCT

Just as we were all getting sidetracked by one GOP sex scandal, there was an interesting development in another.

The Las Vegas Sun reports that Fox News received Doug Hampton's bizarre letter -- about the affair between Hampton's wife Cindy and Sen. John Ensign -- three days earlier than the right-wing news channel had previously acknowledged.

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After yesterday's press conference, reporters are understandably trying to get a clearer sense from the administration on whether the president's obvious personal preference for a public option will ultimately translate into an ultimatum to Congress demanding one.

Here's Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius fielding one such question.



"One of his bottom lines is, he refuses to talk about any plan that really doesn't lower costs. And if you have a monopoly in the marketplace, it's very difficult to lower costs."

That may be the closest we'll get to an answer at this point--but the idea here is that Obama a). wouldn't support a plan that doesn't lower costs, and b). finds it hard to believe that a reform proposal without a public plan would succeed at lowering costs. Ergo.... we wait for the CBO, I guess. But Obama's been pretty clear that he's going to keep his powder dry publicly until the process in Congress reaches greater maturity.

We got the feeling from his press conference that things weren't quite resolved between Mark Sanford and his Argentina-based lover. Now The State has published emails the pair sent each other last year -- and they definitely reinforce that impression.

The conservative Republican waxes eloquent, telling his lover Maria, among other things:

I could digress and say that you have the ability to give magnificent gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines or that I love the curve of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself) in the faded glow of the night's light...


Reading these intensely personal communications, it's hard not to feel some sympathy for the human beings involved. But that doesn't mean they don't make good reading.

Reports that the paper had been working on this story for a while were on the mark. The paper says it got the emails in December.

Full email text after the jump:

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I just spoke with Gary Ward, The State's managing editor for online, and he told me that the Mark Sanford story has been great for his paper's online traffic.

"It's been incredible," said Ward, with the paper getting links from all manner of national news outlets.

"Page views are about three-times normal, and monthly uniques for today are just, like eight times normal," said Ward. "If you look at a graph of our traffic, it started on Monday when we started reporting through the day."

"I would say that traffic today, starting from Monday through today, has been tremendous," he added. "Monday is usually the busiest day of the week, but today is just huge, and blowing last week, and last year at this time, out of the water."

In this post, and a couple others, I've made the point that there's no evidence that potential Republican support for the idea of a co-operative health care system will translate into Republican support for the broader reform bill they're attached to.

Here, for instance is how the Associated Press characterized Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi's take on the co-ops. "Enzi likes an idea proposed by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., to set up nonprofit cooperatives that would enable groups to put together their own health care plans."

Enzi is the ranking member of the Senate HELP committee, and he's been a harsh critic of the health care bill that's come out of that panel. I talked to his spokesman this evening, who said the AP didn't get things exactly right. More accurately, Enzi supports the Finance Committee's process, which he said has been more transparent and bipartisan in spirit. He says the co-op proposal sounds promising, but he needs to learn more about it before he offers his full support to the provision.

But, crucially, even if Enzi does decide that co-ops are a great policy idea, he in no uncertain terms, withholds judgment on the greater bill. This is a common position in the GOP, and, frankly, a common legislative tactic in general. It's not necessarily a wink and a nod toward a 'no' vote, but it raises concerns among Democrats--or at least it should--that Republicans might try to weaken the bill only to turn around and vote against it.

There have been a number of important one-off reports over the last few days on developments in the Senate Finance Committee's health care legislation negotiations--co-ops vs. the public option--which, taken together, don't really paint a complete picture of where things stand in that process. So let me do my best to tie it all together and place things in greater context.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is the committee's point man on the public plan. That's the role he was assigned by chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) when the process began, and it started with his suggestion that a government insurance option operate on a level playing field with private insurers; lower administrative costs, lower overall levels of waste, but barred from monopsonistically using the sheer enormity of the program to set lower prices.

Some conservative Democrats on the committee had "concerns" about Schumer's plan, and Republicans were generally opposed, which put a crimp in Baucus' plan to reach a bipartisan consensus--for all intents and purposes, to win the votes of ranking member Chuck Grassley and Olympia Snowe. That's what ultimately created the political space for Sen. Kent Conrad's plan to build a cooperative system, which Grassley said he was open to in principle.

There were just a couple significant problems with that.

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A new Strategic Vision (R) poll shows Gov. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) badly trailing his Republican opponent, former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie.

The numbers: Christie 51%, Corzine 39%, with a ±3% margin of error. Two months ago, before Christie won his Republican primary, Christie was ahead of Corzine 47%-36%.

New Jersey is a very blue state in general, but Corzine is an unpopular incumbent. In this poll, only 34% of likely voters approve of his performance, to 54% who disapprove. The big question here is whether Corzine can turn things around in the next four and a half months -- and whether he can successfully employ a strategy that has been used by Democrats in past elections here, by dragging his Republican opponent down in a wave of attacks that tie him to the national GOP.

Jenny Sanford, the First Lady of South Carolina, has released a statement in which she reveals that two weeks ago she asked her husband to leave, beginning a trial separation. It was agreed that the two would not be in touch during that period.

As a result, says Jenny Sanford, she did not know where he was over the last six days.

She adds: "I believe Mark has earned a chance to resurrect our marriage."

The full statement follows after the jump...

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Red-faced luv guv Mark Sanford has followed up on his amazing press conference by issuing a formal statement asking for forgiveness.

It's true that the philandering chief exec deserves some credit for "standing up and being a man," as Sen. Jake Knotts -- heretofore his loudest critic on the issue -- put it just now on CNN. But the forgiveness Sanford is looking for might come more quickly if there weren't still so many unanswered questions about what really happened.

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