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Election 2020: Mark Sanford announces GOP primary bid against President Trump

Des Moines Register logo Des Moines Register 6 days ago Kirk Brown and Christal Hayes, USA TODAY
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WASHINGTON – Former South Carolina governor and two-time U.S. Congressman Mark Sanford announced Sunday that he would challenge President Donald Trump for the Republican party's nomination in the 2020 presidential race.

Sanford made the announcement on Fox News Sunday, becoming the third GOP candidate to launch a long-shot bid for the party's nomination. 

"I am here to tell you now that I am going to get in," he said. 

The announcement came one day after South Carolina's GOP party announced it would not hold primaries in the state, instead offering support to Trump. The move, which the state's GOP party said was unnecessary due to Trump having "no legitimate primary challenger," means Sanford would not be able to win his home state. Kansas has also said it would halt its Republican caucus in the state and other states are expected to follow in canceling GOP contests, including Nevada and Arizona

Sanford, who has been mulling a possible presidential bid for weeks, has acknowledged the chances of winning are slim, but in a recent sit-down interview with The Greenville News, Sanford insisted that his re-emergence into the political spotlight revolved around concerns about the rising national debt and wasn't about settling a personal score. 

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"This isn't about weakening the president or electing Democrats," Sanford said. "In political movements, people circle the wagons. That's never been my personal style of politics."

In the June 2018 Republican primary, Sanford lost the race for his District 1 congressional seat to challenger Katie Arrington, who in a surprise upset was defeated in the general election by Democrat Joe Cunningham.

The primary defeat came just after Trump endorsed Arrington via Twitter. In the tweet, Trump said that Sanford was "nothing but trouble" and "is better off in Argentina."

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Sanford said his primary focus is Republicans have abandoned a debate over the rising national debt, which Sanford believes will, if unattended, cause a financial collapse on the scale of the Great Depression.

But along with an uphill battle against Trump, there's also the weariness over Sanford's well-documented personal foibles.

The two-term governor faced calls for impeachment in 2009 after he disappeared for a week to engage in an extramarital affair in Argentina while telling his staff he was hiking the Appalachian trail.

At the time, Sanford was considered a possible 2012 presidential candidate, but the affair derailed his career and unraveled his marriage.

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Despite his fall from political grace in 2009, Sanford managed to win the Charleston-area House District 1 seat in 2013. In that time, Sanford broke off an engagement to his Argentinian mistress and again faced political backlash for personal actions when his ex-wife accused him of trespassing.

Sanford had been quiet since his 2018 defeat — but the media world lit up at the chance to spotlight him again when he expressed interest in running against Trump.

This time, Sanford said he is trying to keep his message focused on the deficit issue. Throughout the course of human history, he said, fiscal instability has signaled the end of entire civilizations.

The concern over the national debt is one Sanford said is "at the core of my being" and has been a centerpiece since the notoriously frugal businessman first ran for Congress in 1994, where he served until 2001 before being elected governor.

"We are walking our way toward the most predictable financial crisis in the history of our country, something of the scale of even the Great Depression," Sanford said. "If we don’t have that conversation, we’ll wait another four years until the next election cycle to do something, and I think it will be too late."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Election 2020: Mark Sanford announces GOP primary bid against President Trump

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