Fourteen months before Election Day 2020, President Donald Trump appears to be more concerned about the crowded Democratic Party primary field rather than potential primary challengers. But former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who also recently served in Congress, declared his bid to challenge Trump in a GOP primary.
Sanford joins two other challengers, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Tea Party radio host and former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh. Weld last ran as a vice-presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party in 2016 and Walsh has been out of office since 2013. Sanford served as a congressman in South Carolina since 2013 until losing in a primary election in 2018, but he also was the state’s governor from 2003-2011.
Trump tweeted his thoughts two weeks ago about his primary challengers, which reflected the thinking that he does not take them seriously:
Can you believe it? I’m at 94% approval in the Republican Party, and have Three Stooges running against me. One is “Mr. Appalachian Trail” who was actually in Argentina for bad reasons….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2019
Yet the media is not delusional about the viability of the three primary challengers heading into 2020. NBC News said that Sanford is “another long-shot primary challenger” and CNN agreed with the sentiment when it said Sanford launched a “long-shot primary bid” in their write-up of the announcement. But it is interesting to note that NBC News specifically mentioned Sanford’s checkered past, such as when Sanford resigned from the governor’s mansion after news of an affair broke out. CNN did not mention the affair in their article, which affair was what President Trump referred to in his tweet about the Appalachian Trial.
As background, Sanford resigned as governor when he claimed he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, when in fact he was visiting his mistress in Argentina (Sanford was married at the time).
FiveThirtyEight agreed on the longshot nature of Sanford’s primary bid. Instead of providing vanilla coverage of Sanford’s announcement, FiveThirtyEight’s suggested that Sanford’s history of fiscal conservatism could influence Trump in the primary, similar to Pat Buchanan did in 1992 in challenging then-President George H.W. Bush.
It is rare to find consensus among the mainstream media when it comes to political campaigns and races, but they agree that Sanford’s primary challenge is a long shot and will most likely not lead to a defeat for incumbent Trump.