Over at Third Base Politics, they argue that South Carolina governor Mark Sanford’s ad, explaining why he’s rejecting part of the stimulus funds, is precisely meant to be a campaign ad for 2012:
Could this ad possibly convince some South Carolinians that Sanford is making the right decision about rejecting some of the funds? Sure. But what effect would that have on anything? He doesn’t need public support to do what he’s doing. He has every right as Governor to reject the funds. Is it really worth 230k in distribution + production costs for an ad with no direct benefit? Sorry Jim, but politicians don’t make moves like this on principle. It just doesn’t happen . . .
First, this assumes the spot was made just for South Carolinians. It wasn’t. Sanford knew this ad would go viral on popular conservative websites. And it did. Conservative bloggers and their commenters are talking about it, and that is a good thing for Mark Sanford. These are the kinds of people you want to influence when you’re 3 years out from the next Presidential primary. Hell, Jim . . . just the fact that you and the rest of NRO are talking about it proves the point.
The problem is, this view means that any action taken by any Republican figure who’s been mentioned as a potential candidate for the next presidential election — Sanford, Palin, Jindal, Huntsman, Pawlenty, and a host of others — is seen through the context of national ambitions and pandering to key Republican constituencies. And this adds weight to the Democrats’ inevitable charge that these figures’ stands and actions are “playing politics” (as if various votes against war funding in the last cycle weren’t “playing politics” on the part of Hillary, Obama, etc.).
Sometimes an action is a politician positioning himself for a presidential campaign three years away. And sometimes it’s just the politician doing what he thinks is the right thing to do. The “oh, he’s clearly campaigning” talk implicitly dismisses the second possibility.
Beyond that, arguing that this is a campaign ad assumes facts not in evidence — that Sanford is, in fact, certain to run for president in 2012.