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Mark Sanford says he would be willing to debate Trump

Mark Sanford on Thursday sounded like a candidate in the wings.

He said he would be willing to debate President Donald Trump.

He said he has been talking to people in both Iowa and New Hampshire, two key early presidential primary states where any candidate would need to win delegates.

And, in a subtle dig, he promised he would release his own tax returns if he decides to launch a Republican 2020 presidential bid of his own.

What the former South Carolina congressman and governor would not say at The Post and Courier's Pints and Politics event was whether he is leaning toward running for president, or whether his next steps in politics will include an advocacy group or think tank to push the conversation around debt, deficit and government spending.

That's what the coming month is for, he said multiple times when pressed about a potential campaign.

"If you get in, the whole idea is to maximize the debate," Sanford said to an audience of more than 200 people at Container Bar in downtown Charleston when asked if he had an interest in debating Trump.

Even without a debate stage, though, Sanford said he fears what the implications could be if Republicans stay silent on these fiscal issues.

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Noting he was dismayed when the two Democratic presidential debates dedicated no time to discussing spending, Sanford said silence could cost Republicans 2020 if they aren't careful.

"If the debate is between more versus more and silence, then more versus more wins," Sanford said.

So far, just one Republican has announced a formal bid against Trump.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld last month also said he would like to debate Trump, but despite almost weekly trips to early states, he's struggling to gain traction.

The Republican National Committee has also been clear about its loyalties so far. "Any effort to challenge the president's nomination is bound to go absolutely nowhere," the RNC has said in a statement.

That reality is one Sanford could face on his crusade about debt, deficit and government spending. It was staring right back at him during Thursday's event.

"We agree on more than we disagree," Sanford said to the crowd.

"On the issue of spending, he has not led on that," he added, referring to the president.

When a chant of "Run! Run! Run!" broke out, other audience members wearing Trump hats and T-shirts sat in silence.

Now that capital punishment is back, Dylann Roof’s execution can move forward

After a nearly two-decade-long hiatus, the federal government on Thursday received marching orders from U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr to resume executions for prisoners sentenced to death.

Currently, there are 61 inmates on federal death row, and three of them are men who have been sentenced to death for crimes they committed in South Carolina.

Among them is Dylann Roof, a 25-year-old self-avowed white supremacist from Columbia who, in June 2015, gunned down nine black worshippers during a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston. 

Read more about the impact the Justice Department's plans to restart capital punishment could have. 

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I just wanted to take a moment this morning to thank all of you who came out Thursday for our second Pints & Politics event. The level of engagement was fantastic, and it was very meaningful getting to talk to y'all before and after the event.

We will be hosting another Pints & Politics event in the near future, and I am happy to announce we will be rolling out a 2020 presidential candidate edition of Pints & Politics.

Join us on Aug. 17 when we host our Pints & Politics 2020 event with Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar. Stay tuned for more details on time and location.

Again, thank you for reading, and thank you again to all who came out for our event. It meant a lot to see so many engaged faces in the crowd. If you want to reach me to talk about politics, you can always hit reply on any Palmetto Politics newsletter, or send me an email directly at

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Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Political Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.

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