South Carolina’s Republican governer Mark Sanford late yesterday solved the mystery of his wherabouts for the last several days by admitting at a press conference that he had been in Argentina visiting his mistress.

Sanford whose five-day absence sparked rumors of his mental state among other things will go down as having performed one of the most bizarre cloak and dagger operations of an elected public official in recent memory by completely disappearing off the grid and leaving his staff and family to try and explain his behavior.

The governor’s admission of an affair comes on the heels of last weeks admission by Sen. John Ensign of Nevada of a similar indiscretion and will surely end his political career even if he remains in office for the rest of his term.

Voters can be somewhat forgiving of personal indiscretion but couple that with the mystery trip out of the country and Sanford can kiss any future political ambitions goodbye.

The real problem though is Repblicans like Ensign and Sanford have portrayed themselves as moral politicians  and then they turn around and violate their marriage covenenants and betray the public trust.  For Sanford it was even worse as he is the chief executive of a state and left the country without turning over power to anyone in case of emergency.

Even though I have never been a big fan of Sanford I thought he was a smart guy.  I was obviously wrong as he badly bungled his attempt to cover up his affair even with the vast resources at his disposal.

The GOP was already acting like the walking wounded after bruising election defeats in 2006 and 2008 and the actions of potential standard bearers like Ensign and Sanford only dig a deeper hole for the party.

President Obama was said to have removed one potential rival in former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman when he posted him to China as the ambassador, but it seems that all this jockeying is unnecessary as the Republicans can implode just fine on their own leaving them with a very thin field in 2012.

At this time Sanford has no intention of resigning which means his ego is still intact, but every day that he continues to serve will only hurt the Republicans and conservatives and give the Democrats a larger target to shoot for in 2010.