Former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford officially entered the 2020 presidential race Sunday, becoming the third candidate to challenge Donald Trump in the Republican primary. Trump holds between a 80-90 percent support level among Republican voters in primary states, according to the latest polling.
Sanford, 59, announced his candidacy in an appearance on Fox News Sunday, telling Chris Wallace that he plans to campaign on fiscal issues, highlighting the country’s dark financial outlook that is getting worse under President Trump. Sanford argues that what used to be a pillar of conservatism and the Republican Party has since become lost in the age of Trump.
“I think we need to have a conversation on what it means to be a Republican,” Sanford said. “We have lost our way on debt and deficits and spending.”
Sanford first made public his potential candidacy in July, and has since been traveling to early primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire meeting with voters. Sanford, who was governor of South Carolina from 2003 to 2011, most recently served in Congress before losing to a Trump-endorsed primary challenger as the incumbent last year.
After developing a reputation as a fiscal hawk throughout his time in office, Sanford was an avid critic of the president during his second time in the lower chamber despite voting for Trump in the 2016 election.
Prior to the official announcement, Trump took aim at Sanford, foreshadowing the attacks to come by branding the former governor and congressman “Mr. Appalachian Trail,” on Twitter in reference to a 2009 scandal where Sanford went missing for days in South America with an Argentine mistress while claiming to be backpacking the trail.
Can you believe it? I’m at 94% approval in the Republican Party, and have Three Stooges running against me. One is “Mr. Appalachian Trail” who was actually in Argentina for bad reasons….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2019
Sanford, who has said that he would avoid personal mudslinging with the president, stayed on message, responding by pointing out the ballooning debt and deficits under Trump’s watch.
So ready for a President that can move beyond either self praise or put down to one who will focus on the debt & deficit that have gone wild under his time in office. Spending 27% above Obama & deficits even higher. It’s time for a change. https://t.co/oghlZQxAfL
— Mark Sanford (@MarkSanford) August 28, 2019
“So ready for a President that can move beyond either self praise or put down to one who will focus on the debt & deficit that have gone wild under his time in office,” Sanford responded.
As Sanford jumps into the race as the most competitive GOP challenger Trump has yet to face this cycle, the Republican Party, consistent with parties with an incumbent president in the White House running for re-election, has expressed firm support for Trump. Four states, including Kansas, Nevada, Arizona, and Sanford’s homes state of South Carolina, are expected to cancel their primaries and caucuses for next year, finalizing plans this week, according to Politico.
Other candidates challenging the president for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination include former one-term U.S. representative Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) and former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld. So far, Weld has seen between 5 and 17 percent support in recent primary polling.