Mark Sanford Announces Long-Shot Primary Challenge to Trump

He’s focusing on issues Republicans used to care about—government spending and debt.

Jeff Malet/ZUMA

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Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford on Sunday announced his bid to challenge President Donald Trump in the 2020 Republican primary, adding his name to a small group of long-shot campaigns aimed at unseating the president.

In a string of tweets detailing his candidacy, Sanford focused heavily on fiscal responsibility, or the lack thereof, in Washington. “I am compelled to enter the Presidential Primary as a Republican for several reasons—the most important of which is to further and foster a national debate on our nation’s debt, deficits and spending,” he wrote.

Sanford continued to hit at the familiar and once-favorite Republican talking point on the Sunday morning shows. “The numbers are astounding,” he said on Fox News. “I’d say the epicenter of where I’m coming from is we’ve got to have a national conversation—and a Republican conversation—on where we’re going on debt and deficits.”

It remains to be seen how effective Sanford’s approach will be, as Republicans have long turned a blind eye to the ballooning national debt under Trump’s presidency. The announcement comes days after Republicans in four states, including South Carolina, moved to cancel their primaries and caucuses in order to protect Trump.

Sanford joins former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld and former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) to announce they’re challenging Trump. (Walsh also made headlines on Sunday by announcing that George Conway, the conservative lawyer and husband to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, would be serving as his informal campaign adviser.) Sanford’s entry to the primary is likely to prompt Trump to again point to Sanford’s 2009 scandal in which he lied about hiking on the Appalachian Trail as a cover for having an affair with an Argentinian journalist.

On Sunday, the Trump campaign had only one word in response to Sanford’s announcement: “Irrelevant.” 

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