“Jenny is the hero in this story,” said Cyndi Mosteller, a longtime friend and a prominent Republican operative here. “She’s the hero to her children, and I think she’s the hero to this state. In the midst of this tragedy, she is standing strong to who she is and what she believes in. . . . I think Jenny has not had these types of ambitions, but I think every woman in South Carolina would vote for Jenny Sanford for governor right now.”…

The Sanford house was in a perpetual state of constructive chaos, friends said. Jenny Sanford would be folding laundry and cooking dinner while on the telephone with campaign advisers about what the next television advertisement would say. She oversaw his staff, drafted speeches, set policy and raised money. She even baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for reporters and other guests.

Sanford, who still speaks with a hint of a Chicago accent, combines the grace and hospitality of a Southern belle with the street-smart toughness of a Northern businesswoman. Campaign staffers joked that she is “an Old Testament woman with a 170 IQ.”