“You’ve got to be a realist, and what I did not anticipate is an impeachment,” Sanford said. “All of the oxygen is leaving the room — in terms of meaningful debate, on what comes next in our country on a whole host of issues.”
Sanford, 59, who was a rare Trump critic among Republicans in Congress, lost his congressional seat last year after a pro-Trump challenger accused him of being disloyal to the president.
On Sept. 8, he launched his long-shot bid, becoming one of three Republicans with elected experience who sought to compete with Trump for the GOP nomination. He participated in forums with the other two candidates, former congressman Joe Walsh of Illinois and former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, but to his frustration there was little interest in his campaign platform to shrink federal spending.
With the Republican Party unified around Trump, he was unable to gain any real traction or attention. As he exited the race, Sanford lambasted the “atrocious” way Republicans in South Carolina and some other states had restricted or canceled their Republican primaries to pave the way for Trump.
“I don’t think we want to get our cues on electoral participation from North Korea,” he said.
He also bemoaned how, with Republicans largely silent on the president’s deficit-spending behavior, Democrats running for the office had proposed larger and more-expansive government programs.
“The fact that Elizabeth Warren is offering $50-plus trillion in additional spending is, to me, fiscal malpractice,” Sanford said.
Rob Wolfe in Concord, N.H., contributed to this report.