Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford on Sunday said he’s challenging President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential primary, joining two other Republicans who have announced long-shot bids to win their party’s nomination.
He announced his decision to run during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” telling host Chris Wallace that Hurricane Dorian disrupted his original plan to announce in South Carolina.
“I am here to tell you now that I am going to get in,” Sanford said of the GOP presidential primary. “I think that as the Republican Party we have lost our way.”
He said the “epicenter” of his campaign is focused on the national deficit.
“The president has called himself the ‘king of debt,’ has a familiarity and comfort level with debt that I think is ultimately leading us in the wrong direction,” Sanford said. “The numbers are astounding.”
Trump’s steadfast support from Republicans coupled with his massive campaign war chest has created a daunting path for those seeking to unseat him from within the GOP.
A Gallup poll conducted last month showed Trump with a 39% approval rating across political parties, but an 88% approval rating from Republicans.
“You’ve got to know you basically have no chance of winning the Republican nomination,” Wallace told Sanford on Sunday. “So why run for president?”
Sanford responded that “you never know.”
“Once every four years, we have a chance to have a national debate on where we’re going next as Republicans and Democrats and as Americans,” he said. “And the thing that has been lacking in this debate has been an earnest and real conversation on debt and deficits and government spending.”
Sanford, 59, was first elected to the House in 1994 before serving as South Carolina governor from 2003 to 2011. His second gubernatorial term was plagued by scandal after he told his staff that he was going to hike the Appalachian Trail for a week but actually traveled to Argentina to engage in an extramarital affair.
Though he faced bipartisan backlash over the incident, he was elected to the House again in 2013. He was an outspoken critic of Trump during his most recent congressional tenure, drawing the president’s ire and likely causing him to lose reelection in 2018.
Asked for a response to Sanford’s decision to run, a Trump campaign spokesman provided ABC News with a one-word statement: “Irrelevant.”
Trump bashed Sanford in a tweet Monday and called him out for his extramarital affair with someone the president called a “Flaming Dancer.”
Trump apparently was trying to spell “flamingo,” possibly a reference to the Flamenco style of dance. If so, it’s unclear why. The woman Sanford had an affair with is a journalist. What’s more, Argentina is known for tango dancing ― not the Flamenco. Trump himself also has been accused of extramarital affairs and sexual misconduct.
″[H]e ran for Congress and won, only to lose his re-elect after I Tweeted my endorsement, on Election Day, for his opponent,” the president tweeted of Sanford. “But now take heart, he is back, and running for the President of the United States.”
“The Three Stooges, all badly failed candidates, will give it a go!” he added, an apparent reference to Sanford, Weld and Walsh.
This article has been updated with reaction to Sanford’s campaign, including Trump’s tweets.