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Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford will challenge Donald Trump for GOP nomination
Sanford says Trump has strayed from Republican orthodoxy and damaged political institutions
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
Note: Video of Sanford’s announcement is at end of post.
WASHINGTON (CFP) — Former South Carolina governor and congressman Mark Sanford has announced he will challenge President Donald Trump for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination, faulting the president for straying from GOP orthodoxy on spending and trade and damaging the nation’s political culture.
“I think we need to have a conversation on what it means to be a Republican. I think that as a Republican Party, we have lost our way,” Sanford said on Fox News Sunday, where he announced his challenge on September 8. “Americans deserve and need a choice.”
Despite his long pedigree in politics, which includes two terms as governor and 12 years in the U.S. House, Sanford faces the steepest of uphill climbs in trying to unseat Trump, whose approval ratings among Republicans top 80 percent.
The Republican National Committee has shut down the possibility of primary debates, and state parties have begun scrapping primary contests against Trump — including Sanford’s home state of South Carolina.
The president, who announced his 2020 re-election bid shortly after his inauguration in 2017, has already raised $125 million for the coming campaign.
Asked about the long odds he faces, Sanford noted that Trump was also considered a long shot when he ran in 2016 and insisted rank-and-file Republicans are more interested in a primary contest than their party leaders.
“This is the beginning of a long walk, but it begins with that first step,” he said.
Sanford said he would emphasize the ballooning level of spending and debt on Trump’s watch and the president’s tariffs policy, both of which he said are a departure from conventional Republican positions of spending restraint and free trade.
He said his campaign would also provide the opportunity to discuss “the degree to which institutions and political culture are being damaged by this president.”
“Those institutions and that political culture is really the glue that holds together our balance of power,” Sanford said.
He also took a slap at Trump’s use of his favorite medium of communication, Twitter.
“At the end of the day, a tweet is interesting, maybe newsworthy, but it’s not leadership,” he said. “And we’re not going to solve some of the profound problems that we have as Americans by tweet.”
After winning his second term as the Palmetto State’s governor in 2006, Sanford was being mentioned as a possible presidential candidate for 2012 — until he disappeared after telling his staff that he was off hiking the Appalachian Trail, when he was actually in Argentina canoodling with his mistress.
Ignoring calls to resign, Sanford completed his term in 2011. Two years later, he came back from the political graveyard by reclaiming his Low Country House seat in a special election.
After Trump was elected, Sanford became one of the few Republicans in the House willing to criticize him publicly. The president got his revenge by endorsing Sanford’s opponent on the day of the 2018 primary election — and taking great public glee when Sanford lost. (Democrat Joe Cunningham won the seat in November.)
Sanford told Fox News that his run against Trump is not personal but based on principle, noting that he voted with the president 90 percent of the time. But he said Trump’s active opposition to his re-election “is indicative of the way he makes too many things personal.”
“The world of Trump is personal loyalty,” he said.
In addition to Sanford, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld and former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh from Illinois are running against Trump. Weld comes from the GOP’s moderate wing; Walsh, like Sanford, is a conservative.
In addition to South Carolina, Republicans in Nevada and Kansas have also canceled their 2020 primary contests.
Video of Sanford’s announcement
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Donald Trump kicks off 2020 re-election with mass rally in Orlando
Trump touts economic growth, hits Democrats for socialism, calls Russia investigation “great illegal witch hunt”
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
ORLANDO (CFP) — To shouts of “Four More Years” and “Build The Wall” from an exuberant capacity crowd, President Donald Trump formally kicked off his 2020 re-election campaign Tuesday night with a stem-winding speech in the key swing state of Florida.
“We did it once, and we’re going to do it again,” Trump told the crowd at the Amway Center in Orlando, many of whom had waited hours in the summer sun and braved thunderstorms for the chance to get inside. “And this time, we’re going to finish the job.”
“I have news for Democrats who want to take us back to the bitter failure and betrayals of the past. We are not going back.”
The president also unveiled the new tagline for his 2020 campaign: “Keep America Great,” building on 2016’s theme of “Make America Great Again.”
During his hour-long speech, Trump touted the nation’s robust economy, lower unemployment, tax cuts and appointment of conservative judges as evidence of his administration’s accomplishments.
But he also spent the first part of his speech relitigating the Russia investigation, which he called a “great illegal witch hunt” designed to overturn the results of 2016 election.
“No president should ever have to go through this again. It’s so bad for our country,” he said. “No collusion, no obstruction. And they spent $40 million on this witch hunt.”
The president largely avoided mentioning his potential 2020 Democratic opponents by name in his speech, except for a single reference each to “Sleepy Joe” Biden and “Crazy Bernie” Sanders.
However, in a likely preview of next year”s campaign, he offered biting criticism of the Democratic Party, which he said had embraced socialism and was “more radical, more dangerous and more unhinged than at any point in the history of our country.”
“America will never be a socialist country. Ever,” he said. “Republicans don’t believe in socialism. We believe in freedom, and so do you.”
Trump also blamed Democrats for what he termed “illegal mass migration” and accused them of “moral cowardice” for being unwilling to fix an immigration system that he branded as a “disgrace.”
The president also leaned in on his hard-line trade policy that has drawn criticism even from some Republican members of Congress, insisting tariffs have revived the American steel industry and let China know that “the days of stealing American jobs … are over.”
Fans of the president began lining up outside the Amway Center, which seats 20,000 people, some 40 hours before the speech began.
Trump told the crowd that 120,000 people had requested tickets for the rally, which marked an unusually early campaign kickoff for an incumbent president.
The president carried Florida in 2016 on his way to winning the Electoral College, and the Sunshine State will again be a state he’ll need to secure a second term.
Orlando sits in the I-4 corridor, a swath of Central Florida that often plays decisive roles in statewide elections.