Former South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford, who announced his Republican presidential campaign at the beginning of September, is cutting through the heated political climate to remind his party of an old but looming issue.
During a Monday night appearance on The Daily Show, Sanford said, "Whether I'm successful or not, I think we need to have a conversation about where we're going as Republicans and where we're going as a country." When asked by host Trevor Noah the areas in which Republicans have lost their way, Sanford spoke of the issues that were once "hallmarks" in his party's national conversation.
Sanford began with spending and the national debt, saying that both have "spun indeed out of control" under President Donald Trump. Sanford also added that regardless of personal feelings over the methods Republicans used to address both issues in the past, there was a time when "Republicans were recognized for trying on that front."
Sanford also compared Trump's praise of the economy under his presidency to a family carrying out a facade of prosperity while secretly dealing with insurmountable credit card debt.
Will Republican voters be swayed by Sanford's fiscal message or has Trumpian nationalism fully taken hold in the party?
"It's either all the conversations I've had over the past 25 years of politics in the [House of Representatives] and two terms as governor, either they didn't matter and they weren't real or they were," he replied.
Sanford's in a tough spot. Despite years of calling for a more fiscally responsible government, he became one of the first casualties of the Trumpism that has overtaken the Republican Party. Though he advocated for more limited government, Sanford was an early critic of Trump's demeanor. Not only did he lose his reelection bid in 2018, but his loss appeared to be indicative of the power of the new Republican Party.
As Reason reported last year, the Associated Press also found that rather than campaign on successful tax cut legislation, ads for Republican midterm challengers focused heavily on support for Trump and the border wall, even in states that do not touch the southern border.
"We wish [economic policy] got the pitchforks out," GOP ad maker Will Ritter told the AP. "It doesn't."
Sanford acknowledged this reality in his Monday interview. He mentioned that he believed his campaign would uncover whether or not fiscal values remain important to Republican voters.
Even if Sanford attracts supporters, he'll still need to overcome party politics. A handful of state Republican officials have canceled their primaries in support of Trump.
The full interview can be watched here (interview starts at 18:56).