CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - Republican Mark Sanford says he is ending his longshot 2020 presidential bid.
The former South Carolina governor and congressman centered his Republican primary challenge to President Donald Trump on warnings about the national debt. But he struggled to gain traction since announcing his run in September.
The longshot effort became even harder as a handful of state parties canceled their primaries and other nominating contests, including in Sanford’s home state of South Carolina.
Sanford’s decision to end his run comes little more than a week after he moved his campaign’s “home base” to New Hampshire.
Known during his Capitol Hill years as a deficit hawk, Sanford expressed a determination to bring debt and fiscal restraint into the national conversation.
Sanford’s possible presidential motivations immediately drew skepticism from a primary opponent and some South Carolina political observers who have watched him plot a political comeback before and questioned whether he was merely seeking publicity and relevance following a defeat in last year’s primary.
Sanford’s full statement, which he also posted on his Facebook page, can be found below:
I am writing to let you know of my decision today to suspend my candidacy for the Presidency and to thank you for your help, and belief, in the simple messages of our campaign.
I am suspending my race because impeachment has made our goal of making the debt, deficit and spending issue a part of this presidential debate impossible right now. From the start I was fully aware of how hard it would be to elevate these issues with a sitting president of my own party, but what was hard has moved to hurulean as nearly everything in Republican Party politics is currently viewed through the prism of impeachment.
This is hardly a lens through which I want to look at things, because I think the debate of ideas is vital for the American way regardless of one’s political views. But with impeachment, wagons are circled, tribes and allegiances are declared and it's all about red team vs blue team as impeachment literally pulls all the oxygen from the room that could be used to discuss a host of other issues. Unfortunately no message of substance can be aired and debated in this environment within Republican circles.
It’s not something I anticipated given its only happened twice before in the history of our country and Speaker Nancy Pelosi had long stated opposition to moving forward on it, but it’s where we are now.
So I will find other ways to advance discussion, debate and change on our unsustainable course on debt, deficits and spending. As I have said repeatedly, we are walking our way toward the most predictable financial crisis in the history of our nation. Our current sleepwalk toward a day of financial reckoning is going to end disastrously. Our debt picture will upturn lives and threaten the American Dream, and yet sadly no one in this Presidential race is focused on it. Even sadder is the fact that in the current environment this is unlikely to change any time soon.
I also still believe we desperately need to have a discussion about what it means to be a Republican. I am exhausted by the conspiracy of silence I hear and see as many who know better, look the other way and simply hope that today’s political chapter will pass. If you believe in the genius of our Founding Fathers, you know that it is collective voice that changes things and brings things to pass; not silence.
The Republican Party is made up of good people, but it has been misled by this President and turned in a direction that will bring self-inflicted injury both to the party and the conservative movement for years to come. What’s come of our once strong beliefs on financial prudence and stewardship? Do we still believe in trade and recognize that raising tariffs is raising taxes? And how about putting our faith in laws and institutions, and not a man? Of separation of power? What of our belief in what the Bible says of humility and truth for those of us who consider ourselves of faith? And didn’t conservative once mean deliberate steps when it came to discarding the collective wisdom of those who have come before us? Traditions matter in political norms, or at Christmas, and wisdom does not blindly discard the good with the bad in traditions or institutions that have served our country.
Two final thoughts, one on President Trump the other on debt.
A person, or object, can be a problem, but not the problem. This is Donald Trump. He is a problem, and as much as he may rankle our sensitivities on a host of fronts, upset our beliefs on what it once meant to be Republican, undermine institutions we hold dear and horrendously treat others - he can’t sink us. He can divert us. He can divide us. He can distract us, but he can’t sink us. The sensibilities and decency of who we are as American’s, the strength of our institutions and the balances of power designed by our Founding Fathers will ultimately prevail over even the most forceful of personalities.
Donald Trump will prove to be no more than an insignificant irritant in the pages of time. Self-absorption does not fit with greatness or lasting change. Meaningful change only comes by way of a life built around something bigger than self - be it in principles, ideals or others. Think Gandi, Mandella, Lincoln or Jefferson. None were perfect, but each were capable of moving beyond their personal needs in their expression of ideas. That Trump seems incapable of this is his fatal flaw, and should allow each one of us who finds many of his actions distasteful to breath a little deeper knowing that there is a short half-life in even his attempts to change things.
But this is only the good news.
While all eyes are on the President, and the media and his opponents are seemingly possessed in giving him focus and attention, he can’t kill us. But that which we are ignoring, the debt, actually could. So I will say it one more time, I beg of you to find ways to awaken friends and foes alike to the fact that we are missing the real issue of our time. The national debt. As I leave this campaign, I will look for other ways to raise and highlight this issue that so desperately needs our attention.
We have a fundamental question to ask as Americans. Do we believe in math? I do and it was the genesis of this campaign, but each one of us can run our own campaigns. Accordingly, I ask you to look for ways to raise the simple question of math in the presidential race before us. It’s been my aim, and I thank you again for your help in our efforts to do so.