South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s presidential ambitions may be over, but could his recent indiscretions cast a shadow on those following in his footsteps as well? Until last Wednesday, three-term state Rep. Nikki Haley (R-Lexington) appeared to be eagerly awaiting the governor’s endorsement in her bid to fill his seat after his term ends next year. Haley was promising to continue the (now-tarnished) Sanford legacy, but as news of the indiscretion has grown into a media avalanche, Haley has sought to distance herself from the governor without abandoning his platform of fiscal conservatism and government accountability. The campaign has now relegated Sanford’s praise, once considered sure signs of an upcoming endorsement, to “encouraging statements” for which she has been appreciative, a spokesman said. He dismissed words like “protégé” as over-characterizations. Richard Zeoli, founder of communications-training firm RZC Impact, said the public is likely to forgive the scandal by next November, but it still may be prudent for campaigns to maintain some distance from Sanford in the meantime. That’s advice Haley seems to have taken. “While Gov. Sanford and I have long shared a political philosophy, today’s revelations go well beyond politics,” she said in a statement last week. “This is a tragic situation for the Sanford family and for our state.” She then removed Sanford’s picture from her website. Tim Pearson, Haley’s communication director, maintains that Sanford’s admission has not had a significant impact on campaign strategy, but in light of changed circumstances Haley felt it was appropriate to remove the photo. “For every candidate the landscape is different than it was a week ago today,” Pearson told Politics yesterday. “To say that our campaign has been affected more than other candidates would be a misrepresentation of the role he played in the campaign thus far.” According to John Davies of Davies Public Affairs, that new landscape may be too dry to yield significant contributions from the party’s regular donors. They may feel slighted by Sanford’s abandonment of family principles, a fact that could seriously hurt Haley and other GOP contenders. “The impact will be on the state Republican Party’s ability to rally the base to raise money and excitement,” Davies said. “Stanford was a national star and a state hero.” Some members of the state Republican Party have gone as far as calling for Sanford’s resignation. Haley, though, has advocated he remain in office, fearing that Republican Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who would finish Stanford’s term, would reverse Stanford’s policies and continue “the good-ol’-boy system that is holding the state back,” Pearson said. If elected, Haley would be the first female governor of South Carolina and only the second-ever U.S. governor of Indian descent.Lani Lester is a frequent contributor to Politics magazine.