COLLINS: Remembering the affair to remember

It's kind of nice to have Mark Sanford back.

Perhaps not if you're from South Carolina. It is my strong impression that many South Carolinians are tired of their former governor, who so famously snuck off to Argentina for some extramarital recreation while his aides claimed he was camping on a national hiking path. A resident of Columbia, the state capital, told me that he had been in Peru, on a train to the legendary ruins of Machu Picchu, when a local resident asked him where he hailed from.

At the mention of the words "South Carolina," the Peruvian nodded happily. "Appalachian Trail!" he cried.

After skulking around in political exile for several years, Sanford staged a sort of a comeback on Tuesday, winning the Republican nomination for his old House seat. It was a triumph of sorts, although one that only required defeating a former county legislator who did not live in the district, in a race that attracted the excited participation of about 10 percent of eligible citizens.

At his victory party, Sanford said the campaign had been "an amazing journey." Since the great disaster of 2009, Sanford has taken to mentioning "this journey called life" rather frequently. Perhaps, in a perfect world, a guy who got in trouble for jetting off to assignations on the taxpayers' dime would not focus quite so much on travel metaphors.

<CS8.7>Sanford will now run against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, a local businesswoman and sister of the comedian Stephen Colbert. She seems to be planning a deeply noncomedic campaign. But, still, hosting this race would be way more fun than being in Texas, wondering whether Rick Perry is going to run for a fourth — or is it fifth? — term.

</CS>Or in Tennessee, where lawmakers have just introduced bills to eliminate U.S. Senate primaries and let the state legislators pick the nominees. These new decision-makers would presumably include the members who recently expressed concern that the mop sink in a newly renovated Capitol men's lavatory might actually be a special foot-washing facility for Muslims.

Or New York City, where a Democratic state senator has just been indicted on a charge of trying to bribe his way into the Republican nomination for mayor. Through the alleged services of a Republican city councilman, who has represented himself as a member of both the tea party and a tribe of Theodish pagans, making him what the Village Voice called "the first openly elected heathen in the nation."

OK, the heathen part was pretty good. However, dwelling on this story will only cause New Yorkers to revisit the fact that three of the last four full-time majority leaders of the New York state Senate have wound up under felony indictment.

I'd rather keep track of Mark Sanford's evolution. So far, his spin strategy has been all about empathy and forgiveness. ("It's only really in our brokenness that we really begin to understand each other.") By the end of the primary, you had the impression that the key to a new bipartisan spirit in Washington would be having all the members of Congress tell each other about their affairs.

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