Obviously, Sanford is no longer a contender for 2012. Sooooo we can take him off the list of 2012 contenders I created back in March.
So the question becomes, who benefits most? In order to answer that we need to clarify what Sanford's absence brings to the table.
Sanford never had a large following at a national level. Political activists nationwide were aware of him and he had good buzz, but he hadn't yet developed a large number of followers like Palin, Romney or Huckabee that would simply transfer to another candidate. Instead, Sanford was going to be the candidate that needed to work hard in the early primary states to introduce himself and his record, and before today, it would have been an easy sale.
So Sanford's absence into the primary season will provide an opportunity for a southern-based conservative, at a social and fiscal level, to gain traction.
Based primarily on his southern roots, Huckabee will likely be the name you'll see in most post-Sanford analyses. But I'd disagree.
Huck has peaked. Sure, he'll have his large group of devotees that carry over from 2008, but I see no way for him to expand his appeal beyond what it was in last year's primary. While he's been plenty visible, he hasn't been able to expound on his record to make him more attractive to fiscal conservatives. Furthermore, if Palin runs she will take a good chunk of Huckabee's base with her.
Instead, it will take someone with the record, gravitas, and skills necessary to effectively and efficiently introduce themselves to the voters of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
And that person is Haley Barbour.
During his tenure as Governor of Mississippi he has developed a balanced record of fiscal responsibility and social conservatism. He's shown his ability to handle emergencies with his management of two hurricane disasters. And his time as Chairman of the RNC during the '94 revolution tells you that he's got the know-how and aggressiveness necessary for a run. His lobbying past is a challenge, but Barbour is the type of politician that could brush that aside.
He's soon heading to New Hampshire and Iowa in what many are saying is his first trial run.
Now if we can only keep him out of South America.
UPDATE: Johnny Drama just informed me that it was just announced that Barbour is taking over the Republican Governor's Association.
Clearly, my timing is impeccable. Ha.