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Mark Sanford suspends Republican primary challenge

Mark Sanford on his shot at GOP nomination
Mark Sanford discusses 2020 bid to challenge Trump 08:28

Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford is leaving the campaign trail, announcing Tuesday that he is suspending his long-shot primary challenge to President Trump. Sanford, who also served in Congress, said that he had attempted to inject the topic of fiscal responsibility "into the national debate."

Speaking to reporters outside of the New Hampshire statehouse, Sanford called his campaign a "casualty of the impeachment process," arguing that Republicans were more focused on the ongoing impeachment inquiry than discussions about the national debt. 

"Until the impeachment process is dealt with, I don't think you can have a serious conversation in the Republican party on just about anything," Sanford said. Sanford also argued that there is "no appetite on the right for a nuanced conversation on the fiscal deficit."

"Never before has our country been this financially vulnerable as we are today based on the roundup of debt and deficit, and the numbers that come with it," Sanford said while holding a $1 trillion check representing the United States' debt.

"Can we add? Do we believe in math?" he proclaimed before a small handful of reporters in a last-minute snowfall.

Sanford had originally planned on filing for the New Hampshire Primary Friday, November 15. "But I'm not going to do that," he told reporters, despite what he called "protests" from dedicated staff members. The Palmetto State politician conceded he mulled his decision to end his campaign over the past two weeks.

Sanford launched his campaign in October to little fanfare. Only one person showed up to his launch event in Philadelphia, as well as just one reporter.

Sanford's bid also received little attention from the Trump campaign, aside from a few mocking tweets from the president. Mr. Trump mentioned the infamous story about Sanford, who was married at the time, briefly disappearing from the governor's mansion to visit his girlfriend in Argentina. Sanford had told aides he was hiking the Appalachian trail. 

The president also noted that his tweet endorsing Sanford's primary challenger in the 2018 congressional election was a contributing factor in the former governor's defeat that year. 

"When the former Governor of the Great State of South Carolina, @MarkSanford, was reported missing, only to then say he was away hiking on the Appalachian Trail, then was found in Argentina with his Flaming Dancer friend, it sounded like his political career was over. It was, ... but then he ran for Congress and won, only to lose his re-elect after I Tweeted my endorsement, on Election Day, for his opponent. But now take heart, he is back, and running for President of the United States. The Three Stooges, all badly failed candidates, will give it a go!" Mr. Trump wrote in two tweets in September, referring to other primary challengers Bill Weld and Joe Walsh.

While there is no love lost between Sanford and the president, it's unclear if he will support a Democrat in the 2020 election. Rebuffing questions of a possible endorsement, Sanford said he will put his support behind the candidate focused on reducing the fiscal debt and deficit.

"I'm going to look at whoever is going to talk in this presidential debate about that simple fact," Sanford said.

According to the latest CNN/University of New Hampshire poll, Sanford was supported by just 1% of Republican voters in the state. 

Despite dropping out of the race, Sanford made traditional New Hampshire appearances today, greeting Secretary of State Bill Gardner in his second story office, and traipsing about the statehouse gift shop.

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