Discuss as:

GOP watch: Sanford takes a hike

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford hasn't been seen since Thursday. His staff says he's just taking some time to clear his mind and gather thoughts since the stimulus fight and that he was been known to travel without his security. But when he left, he didn't even tell his wife where he was headed, authorities went so far as to track his cell phone and his Republican lieutenant governor said he'd tried to reach Sanford, but his staff misled even him. Twitter messages were left in Sanford's name yesterday about the state's government structure and Sunday about the stimulus. Last night, his staff said he was actually hiking in Appalachian Trail.

Video: Rachel Maddow is joined by John O'Connor, political reporter for The State newspaper, to discuss the whereabouts of Gov. Mark Sanford, R-SC. 

South Carolina's State newspaper: "S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford's staff said late Monday that the governor is hiking on the Appalachian Trail, ending four days during which staff and state officials said they had not heard from him. Neither Sanford's office nor the State Law Enforcement Division, which provides security for governors, had been able to reach Sanford since he left the mansion Thursday in a black Suburban SUV assigned to his security detail, said state Sen. Jake Knotts , R-Lexington, and three others familiar with the situation, but who declined to be identified. Joel Sawyer, the governor's spokesman would not disclose where on the trail the governor was hiking, nor would he reveal whether Sanford was hiking alone."

The Washington Post: "Some considered Sanford's disappearance odd for someone seen as a likely presidential candidate in 2012."   

Politico adds, "Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who was elected separately from Sanford, issued a statement to POLITICO after a day of frenzied national speculation about the governor's whereabouts. Bauer said he called Sanford's office Monday and requested an 'immediate phone conversation with the governor.' 'That request was denied because the governor's chief of staff does not know where the governor is, and has not communicated with the governor since he left South Carolina last Thursday,' Bauer said. 'I cannot take lightly that his staff has not had communication with him for more than four days, and that no one, including his own family, knows his whereabouts.'"

"Sanford allies say that his enemies -- most notably Bauer and state Sen. Jake Knotts (R) -- are simply taking advantage of an opportunity to get under the governor's skin, and that Sanford has a habit of going underground when he takes time away from the office," The Hill reports.

Video: Will Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., survive the fallout from his affair? A Hardball panel discusses what Nevada voters think about the scandalized Senator.

Awkward... Meanwhile, John Ensign made his return to Capitol Hill. "Emerging for a procedural vote on a tourism promotion bill with Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback (R), Ensign walked from the Russell building outdoors to the front door of the Senate as a half-dozen reporters and cameramen trailed him," The Hill writes, adding, "Asked what he's done since returning to Washington, Ensign said he has talked to other senators and has 'been getting back to work for the people of Nevada.' Ensign was greeted warmly by his Republican colleagues when he walked on to the Senate floor. Under the watch of Senate reporters, GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and GOP Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) made pointed displays of shaking Ensign's hand and grasping his shoulder. The senator retreated to his desk, sitting next to Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.), his D.C. housemate, for an extended conversation."