Mark Sanford Running for 2020 GOP Nomination Against Trump
The former South Carolina governor, has become the latest Republican to challenge President Trump in the party’s primary contest. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Mark Sanford Running for 2020 GOP Nomination Against Trump

(Bloomberg) -- Mark Sanford said he’s running for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination against President Donald Trump, joining at least two others looking to topple the party’s popular leader.

Sanford joins former Massachusetts Governor William Weld and syndicated talk show host and former one-term Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh in challenging Trump at a time some states are poised to cancel their Republican primaries altogether.

The former U.S. representative from South Carolina made the announcement on “Fox News Sunday,” calling for “an earnest and real conversation on debt and deficits and government spending.”

“I am here to tell you now that I am going to get in,” Sanford said. “We need to have a conversation on what it means to be a Republican.”

Adding Republican candidates to the mix is a good thing, said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law. As for Sanford, “He can reach voters on fiscal conservatism where Trump has no plan,” Tobias said.

Extramarital Affair

Sanford, 59, finished his second term as South Carolina governor under a cloud after the revelation of an extramarital affair -- something Trump has reminded him of at campaign rallies and in Twitter messages. Sanford disappeared for days in 2009, supposedly to hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail, but was instead in Argentina with a girlfriend.

Despite that incident, Sanford’s record “is clean and very positive in terms of running South Carolina,” said Tobias.

Asked how his clouded personal history might affect his primary bid, Sanford said he’s atoned for his past actions.

“In contrast to the president, where he says there’s not a single thing that he regrets or apologizes for, I profoundly apologized for that,” he said, adding he deeply regrets that period in his life and believes in the Christian model of repentance, renewal and a second chance.

Asked whether his bid to take the Republican nomination from Trump is personal, given the president’s comments about him, Sanford said, “It’s not personal, but it’s indicative of the way the president makes too many things personal.”

Primary Loss

Sanford was first elected to Congress in 1994 and returned in 2013. He narrowly lost a 2018 primary for re-election to the House after Trump endorsed his opponent, Katie Arrington, and tweeted that Sanford was “MIA and nothing but trouble.” Arrington went on to lose the election in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional district, which had been in Republican hands for more than 30 years.

“The world of Trump is personal loyalty,” Sanford said. “I believe as the Republican party our loyalty should be to ideas and ideals.”

Trump’s popularity among Republican voters remains high in polls, typically between 80% and 90%. His challengers argue that if presented with a choice, at least some GOP supporters would back away. Trump has termed his challengers the “Three Stooges” and said of Sanford: “One is ‘Mr. Appalachian Trail’ who was actually in Argentina for bad reasons.”

Republican leaders in Sanford’s home state voted on Saturday to skip a presidential primary in 2020, CNN reported. That would allow Trump to capture all of the state’s delegates without competition. Other states, including Nevada, Arizona and Kansas, are considering similar actions.

Sanford’s chance of winning the nomination is “a long shot,” said Tobias -- “especially if all these states aren’t going to hold primaries.”

“Why are no Republicans speaking out and instead caving like these states are doing?” said Tobias. “At least Sanford is willing to stand up.”

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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