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South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford tearfully admitted to having an affair and said that was the reason why he was in Argentina, not on the Appalachian Trail.
Once upon a time the biggest party shift in America came when the Democrat's "Solid South" turned Republican and the Establishment Republican Northeast turned Democratic. But the cultural-geographic shift of the two parties is changing in more culturally interesting ways nowadays.
The revelations in successive weeks of affairs by Nevada Sen. John Ensign and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford forces an important question to be pondered: When did the GOP supplant the Democrats as America's Unofficial Horndog Party?
These things used to be crystal clear: Democrats cheated on their wives; Republicans cheated on their taxes/got involved in shady deals Yes, there were exceptions here and there, but the rule was what it was.
And, boy did Democrats hold up their, uh, end of the bargain: From John F. Kennedy in the White House to Teddy Kennedy's various exploits (solo and with fellow Senate Lothario Chris Dodd); from Arkansas Rep. Wilbur Mills (brought down by his own Argentine-born femme fatale by the name of Fanne Foxe) to the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky cataclysmic media orgy of the late-'90s.
Even in the seeds of the Clinton saga, the GOP's carnal side began to emerge: Would-be House Speaker Bob Livingston resigned on the House floor, even as he voted for Clinton's impeachment.-- when his own infidelity was about to be exposed.
And now, it appears that over the last decade or so -- while Democrats have had arguably the bigger scandals (with Clinton impeached and Govs. Eliot Spitzer and Jim McGreevey resigning) -- Republicans have had more and more varied crises. They include close encounters of the same-sex kind with Sen. Larry Craig and Rep. Mark Foley to the "two-families-are-better-than-one" escapade of former New York Rep. Vito Fossella.
Meanwhile, the Democrats, rising from the days of following the "Big Dog", are now led by a Cosby-esque family man. While Mark Sanford was crying/cavorting in Argentina over Father's Day weekend, Barack Obama was taking his two girls out for ice cream. While Sanford and John Ensign were reduced to standing alone in front of microphones apologizing to wives, families and voters, the president has managed to take his wife on dates in New York and Paris. Individually, any one of the actions by Obama could be criticized (taxpayer expense, appropriateness while the Iran protests were going on, etc.), collectively they send a pretty nice image of a "family values" White House.
And don't think that contrast won't make it -- in some form or another -- into Democratic Party propaganda (but in a good way)!
On the other hand, Democrats might not want to get too, uh, cocky. In certain circumstances, tapping into the non-fidelity side of life might not be a completely bad thing. In the week since John Ensign announced his affair, his approval rating in Nevada has plunged from 53 to 39 percent. Yet, remarkably, that still makes him more popular than the state's senior senator -- Democrat Harry Reid, who lives a somewhat bland, yet happily married life. Can Reid improve his poll numbers before he faces the voters next year? Hmmm....well, this is Nevada: Maybe, he should look into flights to Argentina, where he can recharge his, um, batteries.
Who knows? He may pick up a few crossover GOP votes.