The Mark Sanford Presidential Fantasy: Take It Seriously

We can’t stand him, but his “vanity project” may not be as crazy as you think …

In South Carolina, we have all “been to the puppet show and seen the strings” when it comes to Mark Sanford. And should the career politician decide to take the presidential plunge and run against Donald Trump next year, our guess is his home state will deliver a stinging rebuke of his candidacy.

Hell, just look at how the SCGOP – which like most of the Republican establishment is now marching in lockstep with Trump – responded to Sanford’s tease of a possible 2020 presidential bid.

In a statement that shredded any pretense of primary neutrality – and underscored the extent to which Sanford is hated at home – state party chairman Drew McKissick ripped the former two-term governor and two-time congressman as embarking on a “vanity project.”

“This makes about as much sense as that trip up the Appalachian Trail,” McKissick said, referring to Sanford’s famously false excuse for leaving the state in 2009 as he paid a secret visit to his “soul mate” and soon-to-be-revealed mistress, María Belén Chapur.

We all know how that ended …

(Click to view)

(Via: Getty Images)

Of course the state party is so beholden to Trump it has yet to say whether it will even hold a primary at all, so McKissick’s sharp rebuke of Sanford is not surprising.

It is not just the GOP establishment rejecting Sanford, though. Consider this news outlet’s assessment of the 59-year-old Florida native. We excoriated Sanford as a “definitional hypocrite” on the fiscal issues his prospective presidential candidacy would seek to raise – slamming him in no uncertain terms for his allegiance to the status quo in Washington, D.C. during his second turn in the U.S. congress.

“Seriously … are we to take instruction on fiscal matters from a guy who voted for liberal former U.S. speaker John Boehner?” we noted yesterday. “And then insisted Jesus made him do it?

Yeah … no.

While we acknowledged a Sanford White House campaign would be “Quixotic, at best,” this assessment assumes things remain as they are. And in politics, things rarely remain as they are for very long.

(Click to view)

(Via: The White House)

Make no mistake: Trump (above) has monolithic support within the GOP. Huge majorities of Republican voters across the country are committed to reelecting him in 2020, and mounting even a modestly credible (to say nothing of competitive) campaign against such a monolith represents a huge climb. Having said that, Trump’s approval ratings within the party are noticeably lower than his reelection marks – indicating there is a group of Republican voters who are holding their noses and supporting him in lieu of a better alternative.

Also, a small (but meaningful) contingent of the GOP electorate – roughly 10-12 percent, we would say – hates Trump.

Can Sanford begin carving out a constituency for himself with these voters?

Possibly …

Trump has obviously failed on fiscal issues (in direct contrast to his 2016 campaign promises). That is why we cannot support him in 2020, although we are certainly not about to climb about the Democratic clown car.

And while Sanford is not an option for us … we can see early voters in New Hampshire taking a hard look at him.

South Carolinians obviously know Sanford’s fiscal conservatism is a joke … but nationally, he is still the guy who rejected former U.S. president Barack Obama’s stimulus funds.

You know, before he hiked the Appalachian Trail.

But with the national mainstream media eager (desperate?) to provide a steady supply of oxygen to a credible Trump challenger within the GOP – and perhaps thereafter to an independent bid mounted by recently liberated U.S. congressman Justin Amash of Michigan – Trump’s lack of fiscal discipline offers an obvious foothold.

Furthermore, imperfect messengers aside, it is a conversation worth having.

Ultimately, though, the success or failure of any GOP effort against Trump (or any independent/ Democratic effort against Trump) will rise or fall with the health of the American economy – which has been teetering on a razor’s edge for the better part of the past year.

If the modest economic growth achieved under Trump can sustain itself, he is a lock to win the GOP nomination – and an even money bet to win reelection next November. If that growth weakens – or God forbid begins to move in the other direction – Trump is in serious trouble.

Under such a scenario, Sanford could wind up being a far more credible contender than anyone possibly imagined …



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