Mark Sanford took another step toward exploring a possible 2020 Republican presidential bid in a video announcement where he outlined his plans and took aim at Donald Trump.
In the two-minute, 46-second video released Wednesday, the former South Carolina governor discusses his frustrations that fiscal accountability is not a greater priority nationwide.
Less than a minute into the video, some of those frustrations are aimed at the president for his recent July Fourth celebration in Washington that cost an estimated $5.4 million, according to early estimates.
"You can have a parade in Washington with lots of military equipment, as the president ordered for the Fourth of July. You can avoid talking about it as people are in Washington or in the presidential race. But these things do not make us strong, and they don't make the problem go away," Sanford said of the financial crisis he warns is looming.
The move signals how serious Sanford is about testing his message and infusing a discussion about fiscal accountability into the national political debate at a time when voters are considering 2020 presidential candidates.
It also came one day after the former congressman announced he is seriously considering whether to run for president as a Republican against Trump in 2020.
College of Charleston political scientist Jordan Ragusa said videos like this can signal the direction a potential candidate is heading, even if the candidate has not declared his or her next steps.
"Politicians, for better or worse, are very strategic. I think he's thought this through. This video was high-quality. It wasn't shot on a cellphone. He had to hire professional videographers to shoot it, to write a script. That takes a bit of seriousness," Ragusa said. "He probably has an inkling of which way he's leaning."
Sanford has given himself the next 30 days to determine how to best generate a national debate about spending issues.
If he finds a presidential run is not viable, Sanford might pursue setting up a think tank or advocacy group aimed at addressing the deficit.
If he does run, Sanford will face mammoth odds to get traction within a Republican Party increasing defined by Trump.
So far, only former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld has formally announced a challenge, but his candidacy has failed to gain any real traction.
Trump, an avid social media user who has used his Twitter account to attack those he disagrees with, has been silent so far about a possible Sanford presidential campaign.
The two Republicans have had an acrimonious relationship for more than a year. In a late-afternoon tweet on the day of Sanford's 2018 Republican primary loss, Trump asked state voters to replace Sanford with Katie Arrington, going so far as to say Sanford is "better off in Argentina," a reference to his extramarital affair when he was governor in 2009.
When Trump traveled to South Carolina for a rally in Cayce last year, he knocked Sanford for his 2009 extramarital affair, an incident forever tied to Sanford’s lie that he was "hiking the Appalachian Trail" when he was on a trip to Argentina to see his mistress.
Without mentioning the affair by name or by year, Sanford hinted at the most infamous chapter of his political career in his video.
"It's well-known that I'm not perfect," he said, "but, more importantly, I know I'm not."
Ahead of the video launch, Sanford told The Post and Courier there could be more videos in the future. Asked how much he spent on the video, Sanford declined to give an exact figure but characterized it as "a nominal amount."