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Mark Sanford, Once Targeted by Trump, Weighs Primary Challenge Against Him



Last summer, President Trump unleashed a last-minute Twitter attack that helped ensure the defeat of Representative Mark Sanford, a Republican from South Carolina who had dared to criticize him.

Now, Mr. Sanford is hoping it’s payback time.

Mr. Sanford, who is also a former governor of the state, said Tuesday that he was considering taking on Mr. Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. He aims to campaign as a fiscal conservative intent on ending what he views as the country’s profligate spending spree.

He plans to use the next month to consider a primary run, he told The Post and Courier, a newspaper in Charleston, S.C., in an interview published Tuesday morning.

In an interview on CNN, Mr. Sanford, 59, said he had spent the better part of his life trying to rein in government spending.

“This is a tipping point now,” he said of the national debt. “If we don’t address it in this window, in this presidential debate, we’re not going to deal with it,” he said, urging the Republican Party to embrace fiscal conservatism.

“I think we’re walking our way into one heck of a financial storm,” he said. “There is no discussion of debt, deficit and government spending in Washington these days.”

He also called Mr. Trump’s recent attack on four members of Congress, all progressive women of color, “noxious and weird.”

Mr. Sanford, who supported Mr. Trump in 2016, had been one of his most vocal Republican critics in Congress before losing in a primary last summer to the Trump-endorsed Katie Arrington, who lost in November to her Democratic opponent, Joe Cunningham.

In two stints in the House of Representatives, where he served a total of six terms, Mr. Sanford was regarded as one of the body’s most fiscally conservative members. As governor he went so far as to try to reject $700 million in federal funds sent to his state following the recession.

Mr. Sanford, who is considering using a presidential campaign to push a national debate about America’s mounting debt, would become Mr. Trump’s second primary challenger.

The first is William F. Weld, a moderate former Massachusetts governor who ran for vice president on the Libertarian ticket in 2016 and jumped into the Republican primary race in April.

Both bids are surely long shots. In addition to Mr. Trump’s wildly successful fund-raising, he remains popular with Republican primary voters.

Mr. Sanford comes with his own baggage.

His second term as South Carolina governor was marred by the disclosure of an extramarital affair, which he acknowledged in 2009 following an unexplained and highly publicized disappearance that lasted nearly a week. He had claimed to be hiking the Appalachian Trail, but he instead was in Argentina with his girlfriend.

Despite the fallout from that scandal, Mr. Sanford was re-elected in 2013 to the congressional seat he had held before becoming governor.

Mr. Trump capitalized on that episode last year. Hours before the polls closed on Election Day, he tweeted, “Mark Sanford has been very unhelpful to me in my campaign to MAGA. He is MIA and nothing but trouble. He is better off in Argentina.”

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