Sanford to challenge Trump for GOP nomination: Discord could “end our Republic”

Former South Carolina governor and 2020 GOP presidential candidate Mark Sanford, right, speaks with Republican strategist Mike Murphy at the University of Southern California in a discussion titled “Tribalism in American Politics” on Sept. 27, 2019. (Nathan Solis/CNS)

LOS ANGELES (CN) – The road to the White House is a long one for any 2020 presidential candidate, but it seems like an even longer one for former South Carolina governor and congressman Mark Sanford. That’s because the Republican wants to challenge President Donald Trump for the party nomination.

Sanford did not win re-election for a House seat in 2018, in part because Trump called him “very unhelpful” and “nothing but trouble” on Twitter. Sanford had spoken out about Trump’s policies regarding the travel ban in 2017 and joined the chorus of lawmakers urging Trump to release his tax returns.

The seat went to a Democrat.

Now, Sanford hopes to provide an alternative to what he sees as the brash approach to politics that Trump has heightened since taking office.

Sanford, 59, is not coy when he discusses what he sees as a tipping point for the United States in terms of tribalism in politics.

“We’ve taken some kind of strange turn particularly in the political world as of late that is disturbing. I don’t know all of its genesis,” Sanford said at a discussion at USC’s Dornsife Center for Political Future during a panel discussion titled “Tribalism in American Politics.”

“I think we’re at a different tipping point right now, where we all ought to be alarmed about that brings us to the edge of dynamics that could frankly end our republic,” said Sanford. “I mean, we’re at a scary point.”

The latest Quinnipiac University Poll says 80% of likely Republican voters support Trump as their candidate. Just 2% would vote for Sanford.

He’s not alone in his errand to challenge Trump, with former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh also seeking the Republican nomination.

Sanford says he’s been on the campaign trail for just two weeks and while Friday’s discussion on tribalism in politics was not meant to be a campaign stop, the discussion veered into why he needed to give voters a choice, separate from Trumpism and all that entails.

Are you with Trump or against him is a fundamental talking point for many elected leaders, Sanford said, asking how the party can sustain that type of mentality.

“More than anything what I’ve heard from different (House) members is it’s not fun anymore. At least on the Republican side,” said Sanford. “They would go onto national television and they would think they could talk about their bill or their latest idea and inevitably what they found is they were responding to Trump’s latest tweet.”

Then came talk of impeachment earlier this week from the Democratic party, less than a month into Sanford’s campaign.

Panel moderator Mike Murphy, co-director with the Center for the Political Future, asked Sanford how he thought impeachment proceedings would unfold for Trump in a Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic-controlled House.

“Tribal fear will win the day. Facts never win the day,” Sanford said quickly. “A lot of good ideas in Congress but that’s not what drives the institutions.”

Sanford was endorsed by the Tea Party Express in 2013 when he ran for the House. He plans to make debt, deficit and spending his primary talking points for his 2020 campaign.

“Either there is an audience for that message or there’s not. Either there is some level of Trump fatigue or not,” said Sanford. “I’m going to give it my all.”