Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford said Wednesday he began his longshot campaign to challenge President Donald Trump for the GOP presidential nomination to reopen a debate about what it means to be a Republican.
“The Republican Party is not exactly the Republican Party that I invested a lot of years of my life into,” Sanford told PBS NewsHour’s anchor and managing editor, Judy Woodruff. “Is this really the direction we want to go?”
Sanford, who made his name in Congress as a fiscal hawk, is centering his campaign on traditional Republican positions of curbing excess government spending and tackling rising national debt, which he said has “gone out of control in Washington.”
The former Lowcountry congressman acknowledged that reducing a deficit of more than $22 trillion would mean unpopular changes to Social Security and Medicare but argued that confronting the fiscal crisis head-on is the only way to avoid financial catastrophe.
“We are at a tipping point,” Sanford warned. Without action, he said, “the financial markets will bring us back to reality, and it’ll be bruising to every one of us.”
Sanford is the third Republican candidate taking on Trump for the nomination, joining former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld. But to win, all three insurgent candidates would have to overcome Trump’s overwhelming support among Republican voters. In the most recent PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll, President Trump received an 87% approval rating from Republicans.
More highlights from the interview:
- On trade: “You start a trade war, you don’t know exactly where it ends,” Sanford said. He called President Trump’s strategy to impose tariffs on Chinese goods “mistaken,” arguing that the tariffs slow national economic growth and hurt American consumers.
- On climate change: “I believe in science,” Sanford stated when asked if he would echo the Trump administration’s skepticism of climate science. “It is inconceivable to me that you believe in the miracles of modern medicine and what science can do in healing the human body, but don’t believe in science outside of the body as it relates to the larger ecosystem that we live in as human beings,” Sanford added.
- On North Korea: Sanford said, as president, he would not meet with Chairman Kim Jong Un, breaking with the Trump administration’s strategy on North Korea. “[Chairman Kim] has proven himself an awfully bad actor on the world stage,” Sanford said, adding that the North Korean government “needs to do some things that show verification before we step out in trusting them and meeting with them.”