Mark Sanford’s love escapade has decapitated the Republican Party.

The governor, who disappeared for three days, admitted to being in Argentina with his mistress. Upon his return, Sanford resigned as the chairman of the Republican Governors Association. He was a potential candidate for president for the 2012 election.

Mark Sanford’s latest trip south of the border ended in the worst way possible-the governor of South Carolina disappeared for three days without informing his family, causing increasing anxiety among friends, family, and colleagues as the days went on. “He is probably in the Appalachian mountains on his regular climb” explained the governor’s staff, seizing the time immediately after the disappearance to do some damage control.

The South Carolina governor is known for his passion for the peaks but the explanation did not convince family and friends when staff could not explain the reason for the sudden and unannounced departure: “It is not like him”. In fact, this time it was not the Appalachian Mountains that was Sanford’s solitary destination but the rather more exotic Argentina, where the governor had gone for a very special sort of hike between the sheets of his Latin American mistress.

In a single stroke, Governor Sanford lost the esteem of his family, the position of chairman of the Republican Governors Association and the 2012 candidacy for the Grand Old Party. His name was, in fact, among possible contenders for a place on the 2012 Republican ticket, especially after his efforts in the latest battle against the financial stimulus package enacted by the Obama administration.

Instead, the dream of the White House was shattered in Buenos Aires, where the governor spent a few hot nights with his mistress. The young woman was not just a flame but actually someone Sanford has known well for 8 years and with whom he has been involved in a passionate relationship with for about a year. The governor said that his wife and some of his family, including four children, became aware of the affair five months ago. “I have made many people feel sick”, admitted Sanford in a news conference organized in haste by his staff after the governor was almost caught in the act by a reporter.

The outcry sparked by Sanford’s disappearance pushed him to return from Buenos Aires, after leaving the U.S. quite suddenly and quite alone while his wife and children were at sea. Apparently warned of the panic by collaborators, Sanford returned to the United States a day earlier than planned but was recognized by a journalist of “The State”, the daily newspaper of Columbia, South Carolina, during a stopover in Atlanta.

An anonymous source tipped off the reporter; “It was an exotic vacation after a period of particularly challenging work”, said Sanford when pressed. The governor was unable to explain why his staff stated he was trekking in Appalachia, although he avoided the issue of where he spent the night while in Argentina.

Born in 1960, Sanford lived in Florida and New York before returning to the family’s South Carolina plantation. In 2002, he won his first gubernatorial election and was reelected in 2006. “This is the last time I am presenting for this position”, he said of that most recent victory, looking with increasing conviction towards Washington. But too much of a trek has cost him the climb to the White House.