Former S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford Launches Long-Shot Bid to Take Down Trump

September 9, 2019 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford formally launched his long-shot bid for the Republican presidential nomination Sunday, a day after the South Carolina Republican Party voted not to hold a GOP primary election in the state next year.

“I’m here to tell you now that I am going to get in,” Sanford told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” adding, “I think we need to have a conversation on what it means to be a Republican. As a party, we have lost our way.”

He also said he is particularly concerned about the national debt and federal deficit spending.

“We have got to have a national conversation and a Republican conversation on where are we going on debt and deficit,” he said.

Shortly after his announcement, the newly minted presidential candidate sent out a lengthy first email blast under the subject line “Sanford 2020,” and debuted a new campaign logo, “Sanford: Fiscal Conservative.”

A day earlier, a visitor to Sanford’s website,, would have found it stripped of all content but its “contact me” page; since then the website has been transformed into a full-blown campaign.

Gone are the somber blue backing and black and white photos of the old site, replaced by a full-color photo of sunrise over a lowcountry marsh and full-color photos of the candidate and his sons.

Since announcing his potential White House bid in early summer, the former lawmaker has visited New Hampshire and Iowa, assessing the support for a potential run against Trump.

“I’d say the response … was the whole bell curve,” Sanford told The Well News last month. “The full buffet. I mean, there were some folks who thought my running for president was a great idea. Others disagreed. But in general I’d say it was more inviting than I would have thought.”

But as this weekend showed, the months ahead will be an uphill battle.

The nearly unanimous vote by the S.C. GOP to forego a Republican primary next year shows Trump remains extremely popular in South Carolina. Republicans in Kansas also cancelled its GOP primary on Saturday, and at least three other states are contemplating similar moves.

Sanford mentioned none of these developments — and barely mentioned President Trump — in his initial campaign email. Instead he stuck to his core message, which is that the United States in now in the most precarious fiscal situation it has been in since before the Civil War, and that someone has to step up and address it.

“No one ‘leading’ in Washington is leading, or even speaking of, our financial predicament. We are living in a government spending and financial la-la land,” Sanford said.

“Presidential races focus our attention to politics and have historically been the stage on which we debate where we go next as a country,” he continued. “If we don’t do it this year, we put that national debate off until the next presidential election cycle. I don’t believe we have five more years before inaction guarantees a day of financial reckoning.”

The theme is a familiar one for Sanford, who championed fiscal restraint as South Carolina governor for 2003 to 2011, and as a member of Congress, first from 1995 to 2001, and then again from 2013-2019.

He lost his 2018 primary to pro-Trump Republican candidate Katie Arrington, who in turn lost to Democrat Joe Cunningham.

On Monday, the president welcomed Sanford to the 2020 contest in typical Trumpian fashion: via Twitter.

“When the former Governor of the Great State of South Carolina, @MarkSanford, was reported missing, only to then say he was away hiking on the Appalachian Trail, then was found in Argentina with his Flaming Dancer friend, it sounded like his political career was over. It was,”  Trump said, referring to the 2009 scandal that ensued after Sanford disappeared during the second term of his governorship to engage in an extramarital affair in Argentina.

The then-governor had claimed he was going to hike the Appalachian Trail. He returned, made a tearful confession and served out the rest of his term. However, the episode killed Sanford’s chances for being picked to serve on a GOP presidential ticket in 2012.

Trump continued his rant against Sanford, noting the governor “ran for Congress and won, only to lose his re-elect after I Tweeted my endorsement, on Election Day, for his opponent. But now take heart, he is back, and running for President of the United States. The Three Stooges, all badly failed candidates, will give it a go!”

In the second tweet, Trump was also referring to former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Rep. Joe Walsh, who are also challenging the president for the Republican nomination.

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