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Mark Sanford says he’s ‘growing ever closer’ to launching a GOP primary challenge against Trump

Former congressman Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) speaks at OZY Fest in Central Park in New York in 2018.
Former congressman Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) speaks at OZY Fest in Central Park in New York in 2018. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Former congressman Mark Sanford said Friday that he is “growing ever closer” to mounting a Republican primary challenge against President Trump following a visit this week to New Hampshire.

Sanford, a former South Carolina governor who represented the state’s 1st Congressional District in the House until earlier this year, said he found “a lot of folks who were open and receptive” to a White House bid during his visit to the nation’s first presidential primary state.

“At this point I am growing ever closer in that direction,” Sanford said during an interview on CNN, adding that he has “a couple more T’s to cross and I’s to dot.”

If Sanford enters the race, he will join former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld (R) in challenging Trump for the GOP nod.

Sanford has said he is being motivated to consider a bid because of the lack of debate in Washington over the federal debt and deficit.

Speaking to CNN, he said he also has “grave concern” about the tone Trump is setting.

“The president has proven tone deaf on any number of things that would bring us closer as a country,” Sanford said.

Trump remains highly popular among Republicans, but there have been scattered calls recently for a GOP challenger to step forward.

‘How are we all tolerating this?’: Scaramucci says GOP should consider replacing Trump on 2020 ticket

Earlier this week, former short-lived White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said that Trump is “giving people a license to hate” and called on Republicans to consider replacing him on the top of the ticket next year.

Also this week, former congressman Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) wrote in a New York Times op-ed that Trump is “unfit for office” and should be challenged from the right in a primary.

Limiting government spending was a key focus of Sanford’s time in public office. But he is perhaps best known for the 2009 episode during which, as governor, he disappeared for nearly a week before reemerging to hold a tearful news conference at which he revealed an extramarital affair. Sanford’s staff had said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, but he had actually traveled to Argentina to be with Maria Belen Chapur, the woman he described as his “soul mate.”

Sanford had previously served three terms in the House and, after leaving the governor’s mansion in 2011, he ran for House again and won, serving from 2013 to 2019. He was a frequent critic of Trump, and in 2018 he lost his primary after the president endorsed his opponent, state Rep. Katie Arrington (R), who lost in the general election to Rep. Joe Cunningham.

During an interview with Fox News in New Hampshire this week, Sanford said he would decide whether to move forward with a presidential bid around Labor Day.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Katie Arrington was a senator. She was a state representative.

Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.