Since I don’t know the constitution and laws of the state of South Carolina, I cannot say whether the decision not to impeach Sanford was a legal one (the subcommittee decided there was insufficient basis to impeach) or a political one (the subcommittee did not count enough votes in the legislature to make impeachment a workable exercise). Odds are that it was at least partly a legal decision: that Sanford’s misdeeds, unfortunate and immature though they were, did not rise to the level of impeachable offenses.
But let’s say for the sake of argument that there was a firm legal basis to impeach the governor. Impeachment is a tedious and expensive process, and Sanford has less than a year remaining in office. The subcommittee might well have concluded it wasn’t worth the trouble, and the state could just limp along for the next 11 months by mostly ignoring its very lame-duck governor. Perhaps he’ll make it easier for everyone and resign (though I wouldn’t count on that). A poll by Public Policy Polling found last week that only 32 percent of South Carolina citizens polled wanted the governor impeached, while 52 percent were opposed to impeachment proceedings. That doesn’t mean he’s popular (his general approval ratings have been roughly the reverse of those figures since the affair was discovered in June) or even that they want him to stay in office; another factor may be that Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer’s popularity ratings are even worse. (And even Bauer isn’t living at the bottom of the disapproval basement: that dubious honor goes to Senator Lindsey Graham, who has angered his conservative constituency by supporting climate change and cap-and-trade legislation.)
It doesn’t look like Sanford is going to resign, but he should, to maintain whatever shreds of dignity he can muster. Why stay on when he’s destroyed his credibility and effectiveness as a public official? There is no way he can aspire to any higher position. Politicians need to understand that spending money on a private romantic junket and misleading (okay, lying to) the public about it is like shooting craps; you’re gambling to have it all, and if you lose, you should just walk away from the table -- the game is over. On the other hand, misbehavior such as his would not necessarily be regarded as quite as detrimental in the private sector; possibly there are companies or law firms that might even grin and punch him on the bicep as they hired him.