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Mark Sanford Ends His Primary Challenge Against President Trump

Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford speaks during a news conference in front of the Statehouse on Tuesday in Concord, N.H., where he announced he is ending his long-shot 2020 presidential bid.
Elise Amendola

Former South Carolina Gov. and Rep. Mark Sanford has ended his long-shot Republican primary challenge to President Trump.

Sanford announced he was withdrawing Tuesday at a news conference in New Hampshire, the early primary state he had made the focus of his struggling White House bid.

Sanford blamed the impeachment inquiry against Trump for making it harder to make policy-based arguments against the president, including deficit reduction and slashing government spending.

"I am suspending my race for the presidency because impeachment has made my goal of making the debt, deficit and spending issue a part of this presidential debate impossible right now," Sanford said. "From Day 1, I was fully aware of how hard it would be to elevate these issues with a sitting president of my own party ignoring them. Impeachment noise has moved what was hard to herculean as nearly everything in Republican Party politics is currently viewed through the prism of impeachment."

Sanford added that it was his "hope and intention to find new ways to raise and elevate these vital themes."

Sanford faced a tough task in running against Trump, but he had made unlikely comebacks before. As governor in 2009, he disappeared from the state for several days, telling his staff he was going to hike the Appalachian Trail. The married father of four returned later and admitted in a tearful press conference he had instead been in Argentina visiting his mistress.

Sanford and his wife divorced. He remained in office for the rest of his second term, despite threats within the Legislature of impeachment proceedings if he didn't resign. Four years after that incident, he ran for and won a special election for an open congressional seat, which he had previously held before being elected governor.

But last year the congressman lost his GOP primary to challenger Katie Arrington, who slammed him for his criticism of Trump. The president tweeted a last-minute primary endorsement of Arrington, but she eventually lost to Democrat Joe Cunningham in November despite the heavy GOP lean of the Charleston-based district.

Sanford's exit leaves two main challengers against Trump, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh. Neither appears likely to mount a serious challenge to the president, who remains overwhelmingly popular among GOP voters.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jessica Taylor
Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politicsand is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.