[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/07/07/sanford.future/art.sanford.cnn.jpg caption="The fallout from Gov. Mark Sanford's affair caps months of decline for the second-term governor."](CNN) - It was late December 2007, and all eyes were on South Carolina.
As the state's Republican presidential primary neared, a crowded field of contenders sought the backing of their party's rising star, but Gov. Mark Sanford pledged to stay neutral in what was then a wide-open GOP race.
Fast-forward nearly 18 months later, and even Sanford's closest allies are distancing themselves from him after he admitted to an extramarital affair with a woman from Argentina.
A week ago, some observers said they thought Sanford's resignation was inevitable. But the Republican governor has made it clear that he's not going to step down, and some now say he might be able to hang onto his job.
"My hope is and continues to be that he can reconcile with his family and repair the damage done to his family and with the constituents of South Carolina and can finish out his term," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said, The State newspaper reported. "That is still my belief, and that is still my hope, and I believe that is possible."