Politics

Republican Mark Sanford drops his bid to challenge Trump in 2020 presidential race

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Key Points
  • Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who entered the 2020 presidential race as a GOP alternative to President Donald Trump, has dropped out, the campaign has confirmed to CNBC. 
  • The impeachment probe into Trump did not allow his campaign to take off, Sanford said outside the New Hampshire statehouse, where he announced the end of his 2020 bid on Tuesday.
  • In national polls, the former congressman couldn't gain traction, hovering at single-digit percentage points of support. Trump support has been strong, often reaching as high as 87%. 
Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C.
Bill Clark | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images

Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who entered the 2020 presidential race as a GOP alternative to President Donald Trump, dropped his long shot bid on Tuesday.

Sanford blamed his decision on the House impeachment probe into Trump which has captivated Washington, he said outside the New Hampshire statehouse, where he announced the end of his run.

"You've got to be a realist," he said. "What I did not anticipate is an impeachment."

The politician's 2020 bid was largely centered around lowering the national debt which has increased under Trump.

"It was a long shot, but we wanted to try and interject this issue, how much we're spending, into the national debate which comes along once every four years," Sanford continued. "I don't think on the Republican side there is any appetite for a nuanced conversation on issues when there's an impeachment overhead."

Sanford entered the presidential race on Sept. 8 and became a frequent critic of the president in interviews and via campaign emails.

"I think we need to have a conversation about what it means to be a Republican. I think that as a Republican party we have lost our way," he said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday" when he entered.

"The epicenter of where I'm coming from is that we have lost our way on debt and deficits and spending," he said. "The president has called himself the king of debt, has a familiarity and comfort level with debt that I think is ultimately leading us in the wrong direction."

Sanford served as the U.S. representative to South Carolina's 1st congressional district from 1995 to 2001 and from 2013 to 2019. He was elected governor of the state in 2002, staying in the role until 2011. During his governorship, the married father of four was engulfed in a scandal after having secretly traveled to Argentina to meet a mistress. He had lied and said he'd been hiking the Appalachian trail, which he later admitted to and apologized for. Sanford had positioned himself on a platform of family values.

Sanford lost his 2018 House reelection, after Trump backed Katie Arrington, who received 50.6% of the votes compared to Sanford's 46.5%, beating him by less than 3,000 votes.

During his short-lived presidential bid, the former congressman couldn't gain traction in the polls, while Trump dominates among Republican candidates. 

In an Economist/YouGov poll this month, Trump had 87% of support among registered voters who said they will vote in a 2020 GOP presidential primary or caucus.

In an email to supporters Tuesday, Sanford called Trump a "problem," saying that he "will prove to be no more than an insignificant irritant in the pages of time."

"He is a problem, and as much as he may rankle our sensitivities on a host of fronts, upset our beliefs on what it once meant to be Republican, undermine institutions we hold dear and horrendously treat others - he can't sink us," Sanford wrote.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Rep. Joe Walsh are still challenging Trump for the GOP nomination.