WASHINGTON (WCSC/AP) - Mark Sanford, ex-South Carolina governor and congressman, officially announced a longshot Republican challenge to President Trump Sunday morning, the day after state Republicans voted to forego a primary in 2020.
“I am here to tell you now that I am going to get in,” Sanford said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday." When asked why he was taking on an incumbent who’s popular within the party, Sanford said, “I think we need to have a conversation on what it means to be a Republican. I think that as the Republican Party, we have lost our way.”
The 59-year-old Sanford has long been an outspoken critic of Trump’s.
He frequently questioned Trump’s motivations and qualifications during the run-up to the 2016 presidential election and called Trump’s candidacy “a particularly tough pill to swallow.”
In a Facebook post Sunday morning, Sanford wrote, “I’m worried. We have a storm coming that we are neither talking about nor preparing for given our country is more financially vulnerable than we have ever been since our nation’s start and the Civil War.”
“Essentially no one ‘leading’ in Washington is leading, or even speaking of, our financial predicament,” the post states. “We are living in a government spending and financial la-la land and this movie will not end well for any of us.”
Sanford’s decision to challenge Trump comes one day after the South Carolina Republican Party’s State Executive Committee announced it would not hold a primary in 2020.
“As a general rule, when either party has an incumbent President in the White House, there’s no rationale to hold a primary, just as South Carolina Republicans did not hold one in 1984 or 2004, and Democrats did not in 1996 and 2012," SCGOP Chairman Drew McKissick said in a statement Saturday. "With no legitimate primary challenger and President Trump’s record of results, the decision was made to save SouthCarolina taxpayers over $1.2 million and forgo an unnecessary primary. President Trump and his administration have delivered forSouth Carolinians, and we look forward to ensuring that Republican candidates up and down the ballot are elected in 2020.”
After Sanford’s announcement Sunday morning, McKissick issued a statement calling Sanford’s attempt to unseat Trump a “vanity project.”
“Let’s be clear, this is about Mark Sanford looking to raise his political career from the grave, not him wanting to advance ideas," McKissick said. "The simple fact is that South Carolina Republicans overwhelmingly support President Trump and know this vanity project is going absolutely nowhere.”
In mid-July, Sanford appeared on CNN saying he would explore the notion of running for the White House over the next 30 days. Sanford said he believes “we’re walking away toward the most predictable financial crisis in the history of man.”
Sanford said America will spend more on interest than on its national defense bill in just three years. When national security issues are discussed, Sanford says, what’s left out of the discussion is a prediction of Adm. Mike Millen, former chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, who called the debt and deficit as the biggest security threat.
One month later, the two-term governor and ex-District 1 congressman visited New Hampshire, one of the first GOP primary states -- as he weighed his options.
“There is little to no – I guess I’d say no discussion of debt, deficit and government spending these days,” he said on Aug. 16. “I’ve watched two Democratic presidential debates and there’s been zero discussion on both of them as to this issue. The President said we’re not going to touch the very things that drive debt and spending. So I think that, you know, we’re walking away into one heck of a financial storm, and there’s no discussion, and yet presidential years have historically been the year in which we do discuss these things.”
Sanford said he was not certain a presidential run is the way to get a real conversation about debt and spending started, suggesting that he might otherwise start an advocacy group.
Sanford joins former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld in challenging the president.