Republican Mark Sanford ends his 2020 presidential bid
CONCORD, N.H. —
Mark Sanford dropped his challenge to President Trump for the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday, saying the focus on impeachment has made it impossible for his campaign to gain traction.
“You’ve got to be a realist,” Sanford said outside the New Hampshire statehouse. “What I did not anticipate is an impeachment.”
The former South Carolina governor and congressman announced his decision to suspend his campaign on the eve of televised impeachment hearings in the U.S. House. He centered his campaign on warnings about the national debt but had struggled to gain traction since announcing his run in September. He said Republicans were more interested in defending Trump from the threat of impeachment.
“It was a long shot, but we wanted to try and interject this issue, how much we’re spending, into the national debate which comes along once every four years,” Sanford said. “I don’t think on the Republican side there is any appetite for a nuanced conversation on issues when there’s an impeachment overhead.”
The effort had become even harder as a handful of state parties canceled their primaries and other nominating contests, including in South Carolina.
Sanford’s decision comes little more than a week after he moved his campaign’s “home base” to New Hampshire.
Sanford had once been a rising star in Republican politics, but in 2009 he was brought down by a lie about an extramarital affair. He claimed he had been hiking on the Appalachian Trail when in fact he had been in Argentina with his mistress.
Three years later, Sanford managed to win back his old seat representing a House district along the South Carolina coast. But a primary opponent in 2018 berated Sanford over his criticisms of Trump. Hours before the polls closed in the primary, Trump tweeted from Air Force One to taunt, “He is MIA and nothing but trouble. He is better off in Argentina.” Sanford lost the primary, and his opponent lost the general election to a Democrat.
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When Sanford entered the presidential field, Trump continued to mock him, calling him and the other Republican challengers “the Three Stooges.” The other two GOP challengers are former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld and former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois.