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Sanford Is Latest Republican To Launch A Presidential Bid Against Trump


A third Republican has now issued a challenge to President Trump in the 2020 campaign. His name is Mark Sanford. He's a former governor from South Carolina and, more recently, a congressman until he lost his primary to a Republican challenger who was endorsed by President Trump. Sanford spoke to All Things Considered yesterday.


MARK SANFORD: I think that the Republican Party has lost its way on what were traditional benchmarks to what the party has been about. Traditionally, the Republican Party stood for some level of financial conservatism. That seems to have been thrown out the window of late.

MARTIN: NPR's Tamara Keith, who hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, joins us now to talk about this development. Hi, Tam.


MARTIN: So we heard Sanford there in that clip saying the words financial conservatism. Is that the central part of his platform? Is that why he thinks he can win here?

KEITH: I'm not sure he does think that he can win. But he is using this campaign to raise alarms about the debt and deficit. He also argues that President Trump has strayed from traditional Republican principles in other ways, like on trade. And he says that Trump has done damage to institutions and norms, as he explained on All Things Considered yesterday.


SANFORD: Now, I think the president has been disruptive and harmful in the way that he has used tone that's turned off, I think, a lot of people to what would otherwise be good political messages.

KEITH: So in short, he thinks that President Trump needs a serious primary challenge, so there can be a conversation and debate about what it means to be a Republican, which he says hasn't really happened during the Trump presidency because President Trump is the leader of the Republican Party, and he tends to crush his opponents, like Sanford.

MARTIN: Yeah. So presumably, though, that means he doesn't believe Bill Weld or Joe Walsh are serious primary contenders. I mean, both men - Bill Weld is the former Massachusetts governor - Joe Walsh, former member of Congress. They are both in the race, trying to primary the president. Does - do any of these three pose a real threat to President Trump?

KEITH: Will they deny him the nomination? Even their boosters admit that it's not likely. But there is another goal, a secondary goal, which is to weaken the president headed into the general election. President Trump has 88 percent approval, according to the latest Gallup poll, among Republicans. So there isn't a lot of room for these people to run. But they point to history - the precedent of Ford and Carter and George H.W. Bush. They all faced primary challenges. They all won their party's nomination, but then they were denied a second term. There is an argument, though, that these three are not Ronald Reagan, Ted Kennedy or Pat Buchanan.

MARTIN: Right. It's also interesting because, clearly, as Republicans, they feel like they can't defect to the Democratic Party. But this is a way that they feel like they can undermine President Trump. Meanwhile, some states are just doing away with the Republican primaries. Are they not?

KEITH: That's right. A handful of state party organizations have moved to change the rules, even eliminating their primaries and caucuses this year. That is seen as a move to protect the president. But the president's opponents say it's a sign of weakness. It's clearly a sign that the Trump campaign and his allies at the state level don't want to leave anything to chance.

MARTIN: NPR's Tamara Keith for us. Thank you so much, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.