Gov. Mark Sanford has yet to resign from office. But we’ve got a feeling it’s only a matter of time. Sanford fled the state on June 18, having no contact with friends, family, employees, or other state officials until a call to his chief of staff on June 23. He was then caught in a lie about where he’d been when caught getting off a plane from South America on June 24 after visiting his mistress. Visits with the other woman included a stop on at least one taxpayer-funded trip.

We don’t have much faith in this state, but Sanford’s public actions are certain to face rebuke in the legislature. Whether he avoids the drama and resigns, or waits for the outrageous Statehouse battle and is eventually thrown out, it’s pretty clear to us that Lt. Gov. André Bauer will be the next governor of South Carolina — at least for about 18 months.

It’s not clear what he’s jockeying for behind the scenes, but Bauer is proving he’s got a little political savvy by publicly sheathing his sword and said Sanford should remain in office. Sure, let others who won’t profit call for the governor’s ouster.

Sanford’s political demise might be horrible for the governor, his family, and anyone who ever took the Appalachian Trail seriously, but it likely couldn’t have come at a better time for Bauer. The GOP gubernatorial primary in 2010 is looking to be a tough fight with two very experienced challengers (Congressman Gresham Barrett and state Attorney General Henry McMaster), as well as niche candidates sure to siphon off some base support (state Sen. Larry Grooms and state Rep. Nikki Haley).

Bauer’s grueling 2006 reelection bid is another suggestion of a tough road to November 2010. A second place primary finish, with a 10-point spread, led to a runoff and a surprise comeback for Bauer. Come November, he bested Democrat Robert Barber with only 50.08 percent of the vote. The State reported Monday that Bauer may skip the 2010 race if he’s tapped to fill the rest of Sanford’s term.

Bauer has sure been acting like a candidate — tirelessly pressing his anti-tax, pro-faith argument. He also bought an environmentally friendly Smart Car.

And a few months in the governor’s office could do him some good, particularly if he can accomplish one thing, says College of Charleston political science professor Jeri Cabot.

“All he has to do is to appear that he can get along with the legislature,” she says.

It could also help Bauer get a few grown-up miles between him and his perpetual teenager cred, including three high-profile speeding incidents and a plane accident a little over a month before his 2006 primary. A little time in the big boy chair may do him some good if he’s looking for higher office.