Sanford himself also stands in front of his sister, her two young sons, and state senator Tom Davis, who was an early supporter of his campaign — back when conventional wisdom held that disappearing to South America to tryst with your lover was a career-ender. It’s understandable that Davis couldn’t help crowing.
“I think it’s the Easter season for conservative Republican politics in South Carolina,” he tells me, grinning, “because a favorite son and a champion of fiscal conservatism is back in the game.”
He was a little more pointed on Twitter: “SC 1st congressional district is sending a fiscally conservative, libertarian-leaning Republican to DC. Sorry, NRCC. We won anyway.”
Sanford is a touch humbler.
“Until you’ve experienced human grace as a reflection of God’s grace, I don’t think you really get it,” he says in his speech. “I didn’t get it before. And I get it in a way that I never have before, and I want to publicly acknowledge God’s role in all this.”
His assistant and driver, Martha Morris (who was also the woman who held the cut-out of Nancy Pelosi that Sanford debated), echoes that when we talk afterwards.
“Not only has he made me a better conservative, and understand why I’m a conservative, but he’s also made me a better Christian,” she tells me.
“Kind of as an extension of him, folks would open up to me, and I’ve — I’ve been so blessed,” she says. “And I really do think he’s solidified my decision to be a conservative and a Christian, which I think is really cool.”
As the rest of Sanford’s speech unfolds, Chapur glows. Sanford tells a story about meeting a woman who works at a convenience store. “I think she was an angel,” he says, and it’s meant to be taken literally.
Then he concludes. “I am one imperfect man saved by God’s grace,” he says, “but one who has a conviction on the importance of doing something about spending in Washington, D.C., and it’s my pledge to every one of you here, this day going forward, that I’m going be, try to be, the best congressman that I could have ever been —”
The rest is drowned out in applause. I turn to Chapur and start to ask her a question, and she puts her hand on my forearm as soon as I open my mouth.
“Thank you so much,” she says in her light accent as a few men begin to usher her away, “but it’s his night.”
— Betsy Woodruff is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.