Former Republican South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford — best known for a scandal involving an extramarital affair during his tenure — announced on Sunday that he is launching a long-shot bid to replace President Donald Trump as the Republican Party’s nominee in the 2020 presidential race. The announcement follows his recent admission that he doesn’t believe he can actually win.
Sanford made the announcement that he would challenge Trump during an appearance on Fox News’ “Fox News Sunday” with host Chris Wallace.
“Why?” Wallace asked about his decision to run. “You’ve got to know you basically have no chance of winning the Republican nomination, so why run for president? … You honestly think you have a serious chance?”
“I’m saying you never know,” Sanford replied.
Sanford received embarrassing national attention ten years ago over his revelation that he had engaged in an extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina, which became exponentially worse when his wife lied and his office lied about his whereabouts for an entire week.
“He had not, as his wife had suggested, taken time away from his children to write. Nor, as his staff had said, had he been walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail,” The Guardian reported at the time. “His explanation, at a hastily organized press conference, turned out to be more interesting and exotic than either writing or hiking: he had flown to Argentina for an extra-marital fling with a female friend.”
Sanford, who was the chairman of the Republican Governors’ Association at the time, immediately resigned from his position but did not step down from his role as Governor.
Wallace pressed Sanford about his scandal, saying, “I think it is fair to say that you are best known around the country as the governor who disappeared for a week in 2009, your aides said you were hiking the Appalachian Trail when in fact you were, as a married governor, in Argentina with your girlfriend.”
“Isn’t that going to be a deal-breaker?” Wallace asked.
“I actually went on an apology tour back home in the wake of that,” Sanford answered. “And what I learned from that is … a level of humility and empathy that I didn’t have before. A level of judgment, it is a great regret, it is something I have apologized extensively for.”
“As the main focus of his presidential bid, Sanford has said he plans to zero in on holding down federal spending, an issue on which he has railed since his initial stint in the House. Known during his Capitol Hill years as a deficit hawk, Sanford expressed a determination to bring debt and fiscal restraint into the national conversation,” The Associated Press reported. “Sanford won’t be able to compete in his home state of South Carolina, which on Saturday — along with Nevada and Kansas — announced it won’t hold presidential nominating balloting in 2020, erecting more hurdles for the longshot candidates challenging Trump.”
Last month, Sanford told the Associated Press that he knew he could not beat Trump, saying: “It’s not as if I’m saying, you know, I think I can become president. But I think you can change the debate, and you might even have an impact on the general election.”
Sanford was widely dismissed by his own party on Sunday in response to his announcement.
RNC spokesman Steve Guest told The Daily Wire: “President Trump enjoys unprecedented support among Republicans. He has already delivered a long list of incredible accomplishments for conservatives and the country. The RNC and the Republican Party are firmly behind the president, and any effort to challenge him in a primary is bound to go absolutely nowhere.”
The South Carolina Republican Party told the Associated Press’ Meg Kinnard: “This vanity project is going absolutely nowhere.”
Trump meanwhile has enjoyed mocking his Republican challengers, tweeting at the end of last month: “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. Another is a one-time BAD Congressman from Illinois who lost in his second term by a landslide, then failed in radio. The third is a man who couldn’t stand up straight while receiving an award. I should be able to take them!”