Mark Sanford suspends 2020 Republican bid for president

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Mark Sanford, the former South Carolina governor and congressman who two months ago launched a longshot primary challenge to President Donald Trump, suspended his candidacy Tuesday.

"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. "From day one, I was fully aware of how hard it would be to elevate these issues with a sitting president of my own party ignoring them. Impeachment noise has moved what was hard to herculean as nearly everything in Republican Party politics is currently viewed through the prism of impeachment."

Sanford -- who emerged as a vocal Republican critic of the President before losing his congressional seat in a GOP primary contest last year -- made the announcement during a press conference at the New Hampshire statehouse.

While he blamed the impeachment process, Sanford failed to gain traction during his short-lived primary challenge. Sanford was one of three Republicans running to unseat Trump; former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld remain in the race.

Unlike his rivals, however, Sanford focused his primary bid not on Trump's conduct in office but on his sharp policy turns from traditional conservative values, including a skyrocketing national debt on his watch.

But Sanford's message failed to resonate with Republican and Independent voters looking for an alternative to Trump. On a cross-country road trip to promote his candidacy last month, Sanford drew only sparse crowds of curious onlookers, or none at all.

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Sanford and his fellow Republican challengers have also faced institutional roadblocks, with a number of state Republican parties deciding to forego their presidential primaries as a show of support for Trump. In one of those states, South Carolina, former Republican Rep. Bob Inglis has sued the state Republican Party to reinstate the presidential primary; that lawsuit is awaiting a decision.

Late last month, Sanford announced that he would be moving his campaign to New Hampshire in hopes of making inroads with voters in the first in the nation primary state. But he abruptly abandoned that plan Tuesday, acknowledging that his candidacy, "a long-shot from the very start," could not get any oxygen in the current environment.

"You've got to be a realist, and what I did not anticipate was an impeachment," Sanford told reporters in Concord. "...But Ukraine came, and here we are."

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