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Mark Sanford postpones announcing possible 2020 presidential bid

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Election 2020-Pence-South Carolina

Former U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford speaks with attendees at U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan's annual fundraiser on Monday, Aug. 26, 2019, in Anderson. Sanford is mulling a 2020 GOP challenge to President Donald Trump. Meg Kinnard/AP

Republican Mark Sanford is delaying his announcement on whether he'll challenge President Donald Trump with his own White House bid until after Hurricane Dorian and its impact on the Carolinas and the nation are clear.

In a phone interview with The Post and Courier on Monday, the former South Carolina governor and congressman said the country is focused on the hurricane, as is he. 

Sanford previously had given himself until Labor Day to formalize and declare his intent. His team additionally confirmed the decision to delay in a statement issued to political media.

"As Governor he dealt with many storm preparations, and given the gravity of this storm, he encourages residents along the East Coast to pay heed to the warnings and declarations of state and county emergency operation teams," the release said.

Since announcing his plan to explore a possible presidential campaign, Sanford has visited New Hampshire and Iowa — two early states in the presidential nomination process.

He has also drawn the ire of Trump, who poked fun at the idea of facing a political challenge from Sanford — or any other Republican — in a pair of tweets last week.

Sanford's delayed decision also sets up a potentially interesting political timing event in his home state. South Carolina Republicans are set to meet Saturday about whether to hold a 2020 presidential primary this winter. 

The state party’s 50-member Executive Committee is supposed to make a decision on a primary when they meet in Columbia to debate the merits of holding a primary against a divisive but popular sitting Republican incumbent. 

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Attempts to reach S.C. GOP Chairman Drew McKissick for comment about whether the meeting might be rescheduled because of the storm were unsuccessful.

Some members of the committee have publicly expressed doubts that a vote on holding a primary would pass.

Charleston Republican Mark Hartley, one of the committee members who'll vote on the decision, said earlier he expects "90 percent of the people are going to be against it." 

A "no" vote by the committee would mean that Sanford would be ignored by his own state in any potential White House bid.

Should Sanford launch a presidential campaign, he would join two other Republicans in challenging Trump for the GOP presidential nomination: former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh.

Sanford has said his goal is to spark a national conversation surrounding America's mounting debt, the national deficit and government spending.

Sanford was in storm-preparation mode himself on Monday, saying he had gone out to his family farm in Beaufort County in the morning. He and his sons made sure the property and boat landing were as hurricane-ready as they could be. Over the weekend, they had been moving equipment to higher ground.

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

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