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Mark Sanford ends his primary challenge to President Trump

Two other Republicans are still challenging Trump for the nomination

Former South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford ended his presidential bid Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford ended his bid for the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday — just two months after his campaign began. 

“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 in a statement. He made the announcement at a news conference at the New Hampshire Statehouse. 

The start of the first impeachment hearings in 20 years has dominated public attention, making it difficult for candidates in both parties to break through. Republican challengers to President Donald Trump also have to deal with several states canceling their presidential primaries. Former Illinois Rep.  Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld are still running for the GOP nomination. 

“What’s needed here is simply a national conversation on whether or not we believe in math,” Sanford said. “Ours does not add up in Washington and continued denial here could end the American civilization and the dreams that come with it.”

“We also need a robust debate on trade and tariffs, our belief in institutions, the President’s tone and a whole lot more, but those things will not happen in a Republican primary embattled with impeachment,” he said.

Sanford first considered challenging Trump in the summer, then announced his campaign in September. A member of the hard-line conservative Freedom Caucus when he was in Congress, he has long been an outspoken critic of Trump’s rhetoric and policy. In 2018, the president endorsed Sanford’s Republican opponent on the day of the June primary. Sanford lost the nomination, and his 1st District seat eventually fell to the Democrats last fall.

Sanford was first elected to the House in 1994. After serving three terms, he later served as South Carolina governor for eight years. But his tenure was marred by his disappearance for several days in 2009. His office said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, but he was actually visiting his mistress in Argentina. Sanford launched a comeback bid for his old House seat, winning in a 2013 special election. He beat back a competitive primary challenger in 2016.

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