Mark Sanford Considering Primary Challenge Against Trump

Former South Carolina Congressman and Governor Mark Sanford is reportedly considering an intra-party challenge to President Trump

Former South Carolina Governor and Congressman Mark Sanford says he’s considering mounting a primary challenge against the President:

Last summer, President Trump unleashed a last-minute Twitter attack that helped ensure the defeat of Representative Mark Sanford, a Republican from South Carolina who had dared to criticize him.

Now, Mr. Sanford is hoping it’s payback time.

Mr. Sanford, who is also a former governor of the state, said Tuesday that he was considering taking on Mr. Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. He aims to campaign as a fiscal conservative intent on ending what he views as the country’s profligate spending spree.

He plans to use the next month to consider a primary run, he told The Post and Courier, a newspaper in Charleston, S.C., in an interview published Tuesday morning.

In an interview on CNN, Mr. Sanford, 59, said he had spent the better part of his life trying to rein in government spending.

“This is a tipping point now,” he said of the national debt. “If we don’t address it in this window, in this presidential debate, we’re not going to deal with it,” he said, urging the Republican Party to embrace fiscal conservatism.

“I think we’re walking our way into one heck of a financial storm,” he said. “There is no discussion of debt, deficit and government spending in Washington these days.”

He also called Mr. Trump’s recent attack on four members of Congress, all progressive women of color, “noxious and weird.”

Mr. Sanford, who supported Mr. Trump in 2016, had been one of his most vocal Republican critics in Congress before losing in a primary last summer to the Trump-endorsed Katie Arrington, who lost in November to her Democratic opponent, Joe Cunningham.

In two stints in the House of Representatives, where he served a total of six terms, Mr. Sanford was regarded as one of the body’s most fiscally conservative members. As governor he went so far as to try to reject $700 million in federal funds sent to his state following the recession.

If he entered the race, Sanford would not be the first person to try to challenge Trump for the Republican nomination. While better-known candidates such as former Ohio Governor John Kasich and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan have ruled out an intra-party challenge, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld entered the race several months ago. Since then, Weld has spent most of his time campaigning in New Hampshire, where he apparently hopes that the combination of name recognition and a Republican electorate that, in some years, tends to lean libertarian might just make for a surprise showing in the first-in-the-nation primary. In a similar way, a potential Sanford candidacy would likely concentrate on South Carolina, assuming that the GOP doesn’t decide to skip a primary altogether as they have suggested.

In any case, it’s obvious that neither Weld nor Sanford have any chance of beating Trump and there’s a good chance that they won’t have much of an impact on how well he does in either New Hampshire, South Carolina, or anywhere else. That being said, if they at least make it on the ballot they will serve as an opportunity for Republicans who aren’t mind-numbed Trump supporters an opportunity to voice a protest vote. The extent to which anyone takes advantage of their presence on the ballot to do that will tell us a lot about the current state of the GOP

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    He aims to campaign as a fiscal conservative intent on ending what he views as the country’s profligate spending spree.

    He’s about to find out just how alone he is in the GOP.

  2. Teve says:

    So I guess his first priority is going to be repealing the two trillion dollar tax cut for the wealthy?

  3. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: How is taxing the producers and innovators who have always created all of the wealth and greatness of this great innovative, productive, and great country supposed to be a fiscally conservative position? Are you another one of those radicals that hate the country that should go back to the shirthole country where you came from?

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    the producers and innovators

    You mean the job destroyers?

  5. Tevr says:
  6. gVOR08 says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    should go back to the shirthole country where you came from?


    His statements after the “hiking the Appalachian Trail” episode left the impression Sanford wasn’t terribly bright. He’s done nothing since but reinforce that impression.

  7. CSK says:

    @gVOR08: He wasn’t hiking the Appalachian Trail. He was nailing some Argentinian tail.

  8. Jen says:

    I hope he goes for it. It’d be fitting to have the party of Family Values (TM) to have two known adulterers vying for the nomination.

  9. gVOR08 says:

    @Jen: And what do we really know about Bill Weld?

  10. Kylopod says:


    So I guess his first priority is going to be repealing the two trillion dollar tax cut for the wealthy?

    He did vote for the bill, so I’d guess…no.

  11. Kylopod says:

    In 1972, Nixon was challenged in the Republican primaries by two Congressmen. In 1996, Clinton actually lost the North Dakota primary, not even making it onto the ballot. In 2012, Democratic primary challengers to Obama won more than 40% of the vote in two states–a greater share than Pat Buchanan won anywhere in 1992.

    So this idea that “a primary challenger means the sitting president is in trouble” is something of a myth. In fact, every sitting president in the modern era (1972 forward) has received at least one primary challenge. It’s just that most have gone unnoticed. What stood out about the well-known examples (1976, 1980, and 1992) wasn’t the fact that there were primary challengers, it was the fact that anyone was paying attention to them. So it’s basically a self-fulfilling prophecy: if the president is seen as being in trouble, the primary challengers who are always there will get more attention.

  12. Jen says:

    @Kylopod: You are quite right–I’m not looking at this possibility as “Trump’s in trouble.” I have no doubt that he’ll be just fine and his numbers with Republicans–alarmingly–are solid (I first typed “soiled” and yeah that too I guess).

    I’m looking at this for its “getting under his skin” value. He cannot stand to be challenged or contradicted and this will no doubt annoy him.

  13. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Kylopod: @Jen: If primary challengers actually run campaigns is the sitting president obligated to debate them?

  14. Jen says:

    @Mr. Prosser: This president ignores much of what he is Constitutionally obligated to do so…

    Bottom line, I think the answer is no–no one has to agree to debates. There’s always a chance that the guy in the chicken suit starts showing up at all of your events though.

  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Producer, destroyer, potayto, potahto.

    ETA: Trail, tail, Appalachian, Argentinian, all the same.

  16. Scott F. says:


    I’m with you. Trump is in no kind of trouble with the Republican Party. It’s abundantly clear he owns them now.

    But, someone in the GOP calling him out? OMG, he won’t be able to contain his pique. Bring out the popcorn!

  17. grumpy realist says:
  18. Jen says:

    @grumpy realist: *Sigh.*

    Yes, this is what comes of having a 400-seat state legislature in a state as small as this one. Last year (or was it two?) was the Red Pill forum guy, now we have this clown sputtering nonsense…I think one of the reps from nearby was arrested a few years back on drug and weapons charges. Another dropped a weapon in the bathroom at the State House. It’s certainly an interesting collection of elected officials.

  19. Gustopher says:

    @Jen: The argument of “Donald Trump isn’t the most racist President because he doesn’t own slaves” is pretty good too.

    We really need a nationally televised debate between those two.

  20. Carol says:

    Sandford shares a lot of trump’s characteristics – and character. He’s so self-centered he doesn’t have a clue how utterly ridiculous he looks to everyone except South Carolinians.

  21. Liberal Capitalist says:


    He wasn’t hiking the Appalachian Trail. He was nailing some Argentinian tail.

    Let’s see:

    1) Lies – check!
    2) Sleeps around on his spouse – check!

    Looks like he’ll make a great Republican candidate!