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Jenny Sanford: Governor always 'quirky' but politics 'very lonely,' especially for conservatives

February 9, 2010 |  8:54 am

Jenny Sanford, the first lady of South Carolina, will always be remembered as the political wife who chose not to stand by her man. As Gov. Mark Sanford fell apart on live television in the throes of a love affair with a woman from Argentina and the state reeled from disclosures that he had visited his mistress while telling his staff he was hiking solo in the Appalachian Trail, she became the symbol of clear-mindedness.

Now, the couple are divorcing and Jenny Sanford is on a book tour for her memoir. In "Staying True," Sanford discloses that her husband refused to take a vow of fidelity during their marriage ceremony and that she almost balked. But after talking it over, she decided he understood that the whole ceremony was a pledge to fidelity and that he was just expressing discomfort with the word.

"I decided there was something honest about it," she said Tuesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "He was always a quirky guy."

Throughout his career in politics, from the time he was elected to Congress in 1994 as part of Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America" class, she credited her husband for "sticking to his guns." Noting that his very-public flaunting of their marriage vows could have happened no matter what field he had gone into, she blamed politics for contributing to the pressures on their marriage.

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"The day he was elected to Congress he began a different kind of life and there's no question that it took a toll on him," she said. Willing to "sing his praises" for his devotion to fiscal conservatism, she said it was hard to hold the line on spending because "there's a constituency for everything when you're against." You wake up knowing "half the state hates you and they want to rip you up...It can become very lonely, empty inside."

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: The Sanford family. Credit: South Carolina governor's office

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