Mark Sanford ends long-shot Republican presidential campaign

"Impeachment noise has moved what was hard to herculean," Sanford said.

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By Allan Smith and Amanda Golden

Former Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., ended his long-shot presidential campaign on Tuesday, saying the amount of attention being paid to President Donald Trump's impeachment has made running a GOP primary campaign impossible.

"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."

Speaking in New Hampshire, Sanford said he planned to file for the state's Republican primary this week but opted against doing so because "all of the oxygen is leaving the room in terms of meaningful debate whether Republican or Democrat, but particularly on the Republican side, on what comes next in our country on a whole host of issues."

Sanford added that you have "got to be a realist" about a presidential bid.

"And what I did not anticipate is an impeachment," he said. "There have been two of them in the history of our country. You know, Nancy Pelosi, who's a skillful political practitioner, had laid out her cards very carefully, saying, 'I'm not going to do an impeachment.' She was there in the ’90s, when I was there for the last impeachment. But Ukraine came, and here we are."

Sanford was one of three major Republicans to announce primary challenges to Trump, in addition to former Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld. Sanford. Sanford served as a congressman for South Carolina's 1st Congressional District from 1995-2001 and again from 2013 until January. He served as the state's governor from 2003-2011, where he faced scandal over an extramarital affair. Sanford said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail while, in actuality, he was in Argentina with a mistress.

Sanford lost a 2018 bid for re-election to his congressional seat after Trump endorsed South Carolina state Rep. Katie Arrington, who won the Republican primary before losing the general election to Democrat Joe Cunningham. Sanford and Trump have a history of trading barbs.

"Can you believe it? I’m at 94% approval in the Republican Party, and have Three Stooges running against me," Trump tweeted in August. "One is 'Mr. Appalachian Trail' who was actually in Argentina for bad reasons. Another is a one-time BAD Congressman from Illinois who lost in his second term by a landslide, then failed in radio. The third is a man who couldn’t stand up straight while receiving an award. I should be able to take them!"

Sanford has said Trump doesn't deserve to be re-elected.