Does Sanford's fall equal Barbour's gain?

Original source:

One of the most immediate fallouts from Gov. Mark Sanford's admission today of an extra-marital affair was his resignation as chair of the Republican Governors Association.

That speeds up the leadership hand-off of the RGA -- already in the works -- to Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi. As Ben Smith of Politico reports, the RGA quickly announced that Barbour would be taking over immediately:

'As a former RNC chairman and one of the best governors in the country, no one is better positioned to takeover as RGA chairman than Governor Barbour,' executive director Nick Ayers said in a statement.

The announcement comes just as Barbour kicks off a tour the key primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire, fueling speculation about something Facing South covered last May: Barbour's emergence as a serious contender for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.

Sanford's fall seems to help Barbour in two ways. First, it enables the Mississippi governor to quickly take the reins of the RGA, which has emerged as a key platform for the GOP's attacks on Obama and Democrat-run Washington.

For Barbour, it also removes a key rival in a crowded field of GOP hopefuls eager to claim the mantle as the 'values voter' candidate for 2012.

One symbol of Sanford's fall: The South Carolina governor's removal as a featured guest at the 2009 Values Voter Summit, which is slated to be held in Washington, D.C. December 18-20.

Of course, Barbour still has stiff competition: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee -- who recently bemoaned our country's 'lack of morality' in a speech to the Southern Baptist Pastor's Conference -- and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin -- who grabbed headlines for calling David Letterman 'sexually perverted' -- are waiting in the wings.