GOP Presidential Candidate Mark Sanford Kicks Off His Campaign. One Person Showed

Republican presidential candidate, former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford speaks on Independence Mall in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Everyone has to start somewhere — even presidential candidates. But for Mark Sanford, who is making a quixotic challenge to Donald Trump for the GOP presidential nomination, things can only go up from here.


Sanford kicked off his impossible dream of a campaign yesterday in Philadelphia. This account, from the only reporter present, gives us a flavor of the absolute futility of Sanford’s effort.

The bell in the Independence Hall tower rang at 9 a.m., and Mark Sanford took a deep breath. He grabbed a giant check for “one trillion dollars,” stood next to a tiny wooden lectern, and asked me if I was ready for him to kick off a news conference announcing his bid to challenge President Donald Trump in the 2020 Republican primary.

It didn’t really feel like a news conference. I was the only reporter there.

And when it began, the only others around besides his two aides were a family 30 yards away with a selfie stick and a group of students from Paris who wanted to know why he had such a big check. (Answer: It represented the burden of the national debt.)

A press conference without the press. A rally without an audience. I hate to say it, but this whole exercise reminds me of a scene out of a Kafka novel or a Samuel Beckett play. Surreal.

The former South Carolina congressman and governor — perhaps best known for disappearing from office for six days in 2009 to visit a paramour in Argentina — launched his long-long-long-shot presidential campaign Wednesday in a gloomy Philadelphia. The launch also served to kick off his “Kids, We’re Bankrupt and We Didn’t Even Know It” tour — a 3,500-mile, weeklong road trip he hopes will “spark a needed conversation” within the Republican Party about spending and debt. He was set to make stops later Wednesday in Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.

Getting Republicans to admit they’re spendaholics as much as Democrats may be harder than beating Trump. The level of denial in the party is astonishing when you consider the concern-trolling about the deficit and the national debt Republicans did when Obama was president.

“Nobody knows me in Philadelphia. I get it,” Sanford said. “I think in life we all do what we can do, what’s within our power to have an effect. So we’re just sort of moving along as we go along.”

That’s a campaign slogan for the new century. “Moving along as we go along. Elect Sanford to something.”

It sure won’t be the presidency.



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