COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) - South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer said Monday he would be open to a scenario in which he would assume the governorship but not run for the state's top office in 2010 if Governor Mark Sanford decides to resign in the coming weeks.
Bauer said that arrangement would help tamp down some of the political jockeying among other Republicans who are likely to run for governor next year as they decide how to respond to revelations about Sanford's extramarital affair. Other candidates include state Attorney General Henry McMaster, Rep. Gresham Barrett and state Rep. Nikki Haley.
"We are at an impasse now because it's all about 2010 and the next governor's race, and I don't see anyone being an adult," Bauer told CNN in an exclusive interview.
Bauer is one of several Republicans plotting a run for governor, but his rivals worry that a Sanford resignation – which would elevate Bauer to the governorship – might give Bauer an advantage in next year's governor's race because he would be running as an incumbent. Sanford is term limited and is not allowed to run for re-election in 2010.
He said he had discussed the idea of not running in 2010 with GOP leaders in the Senate, many of whom are staunch opponents of Sanford.
"What it would do is it would get the politics out of it," Bauer said. "The people that are so concerned for their own political future about running for governor, would no longer be worried if I came in and became governor, because I would just say. 'You know what? This is bigger than politics. I will go and lead in for the next 18 months and not run for re-election.'"
Rumors are swirling in Columbia that Bauer is working behind-the-scenes with allies in the legislature to force Sanford to resign. Bauer denied any covert efforts to oust the governor and blamed his potential rivals for stirring the pot. "It's amazing how nasty this is getting," Bauer said. "It's a black cloud over South Carolina."
Asked if he had discussed with any legislators the idea of a criminal probe against Sanford, Bauer said that he had one conversation last week with state Sen. Jake Knotts - a Bauer ally - in which Knotts mentioned the possibility of an investigation.
Last Friday, Knotts called for a state law enforcement investigation into Sanford's overseas trip. Bauer said Knotts' demand is "a reasonable request" and said there are "people out there who want answers."
Bauer also pointed out that Attorney General McMaster – one of Bauer's potential gubernatorial rivals – has, in the past, chosen to investigate elected officials. McMaster issued a cautious statement last week, however, saying that an investigation into Sanford may not be warranted.
The New York Times reported Monday that Chris LaCivita, a consultant to Bauer, had e-mailed another GOP consultant asking him to pressure fellow Republicans to help push Sanford out. Bauer said he had not seen the e-mail.
"I have tried to stay about the fray in this," he said. "I have tried to conduct myself as southern gentleman."
Bauer said he had spoken to Sanford by phone a couple days ago. "He told me he thought he would be a better man because of this," Bauer said of his conversation with Sanford.
UPDATE: Rivals to Bauer point out that this isn't the first time he has promised to avoid future campaigning. In 2006, Bauer promised The Greenville News that if were to win re-election in that year's campaign for Lieutenant Governor, he would not seek the governorship in 2010.
Makes me want to see Andre Bauer as the next governor even more. Falling on Sanford's sword so to speak, to get the state back on track. Agreeing to serve only a little over a year as governor instead of a full term as he clearly wants. As an outsider to SC, the guy seems to make the most sense in the government.