(CNN) – The Republican governor of South Carolina wrote an op-ed in the state’s largest paper Friday in which he spoke admiringly of Democrat Barack Obama's presidential candidacy, and urged voters to think about the significance of the Illinois senator’s White House run as they make their presidential picks.
Mark Sanford said he wouldn’t be voting for Obama because of their differing policy views. “However,” he added, “as the presidential campaign trail now makes its turn toward this state, and as South Carolinians make their final decisions on whom to vote for, it’s worth pausing to take notice of something important that the Obama candidacy means for our corner of America.
“…In the Obama candidacy, there is a potentially history-making quality that we should reflect on. It is one that is especially relevant on the sensitive topic of race — because South Carolina and the South as a whole bear a heavier historical burden than the rest of our country on that front,” he added.
He said that Obama was not running on the basis of his race, and that no one should make their decision one way or the other because of it. “Nonetheless, what is happening in the initial success of his candidacy should not escape us. Within many of our own lifetimes, a man who looked like Barack Obama had a difficult time even using the public restrooms in our state.
“What is happening may well say a lot about America, and I do think as an early primary state we should earnestly shoulder our responsibility in determining how this part of history is ultimately written.”
Sanford, who endorsed John McCain in 2000, has not publicly backed any GOP presidential candidates this cycle. South Carolina’s Republicans head to the polls January 19.
–CNN's Rebecca Sinderbrand