Pints and Quarts Mark Sanford01.JPG

Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford talks with Tim and Tara Weber during The Post and Courier's second Pints & Politics at Container Bar on Thursday, July 25, 2019 in Charleston. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

Mark Sanford, still mulling a possible 2020 presidential bid, will travel to New Hampshire on Tuesday as he nears a final decision on launching a serious run against Donald Trump.

In an interview with The Post and Courier, the former South Carolina congressman and governor said his trip to the key early presidential primary state will not include public events.

Instead, he will be "quietly having meetings" with individuals he trusts to give him honest feedback on the best political path forward.

He did not identify who those people are.

"Frankly, it's even more daunting than it seemed four weeks ago," Sanford said, referring to his admission of a possible presidential campaign. Sanford has said he is considering it as a means of pushing a national debate about America’s mounting debt, deficit and government spending.

At the time, Sanford had said he planned to take roughly 30 days to make up his mind. If he finds a presidential run is not viable, Sanford said he might pursue setting up a think tank aimed at addressing the deficit. 

On Monday, Sanford said he is still on track to meet his four-week timeline but refused to say which direction he was leaning.

"That's still the $94 question. I don't know," Sanford said, after confirming he has had conversations with people in Iowa, New Hampshire and California — three states with early presidential primaries.

Sanford also rolled out a new video Monday. The recorded message highlights some of the same themes Sanford discussed in a clip published on his website last month.

In that video, Sanford discussed his frustrations that fiscal accountability is not a greater priority nationwide. Sanford's new video warns an impending financial storm is on the horizon and says both Democrats and President Trump have failed to address government spending and national debt.

"Seemingly no one in Washington is talking about it. I just got through watching two Democratic debates that offered little more than a long laundry list of new political promises that we can't afford. I listen to the president, who rules out action on the very things that drive our debt and spending," Sanford says in the message, which was recorded in the Lowcountry.

That Sanford is launching a second video ahead of a two-day swing through New Hampshire — his first to an early primary state since publicizing his possible presidential ambitions — signals how serious Sanford is about testing his message before making his final decision. But he is taking visible steps.

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He has appeared on multiple national news outlets and also attended South Carolina GOP events, including the S.C. Republican Party's Silver Elephant Dinner two weeks ago in Columbia.

At the annual fundraiser, Sanford was greeted with a mixed reaction from his fellow Republicans — including many who told him not to run and many who encouraged him to do it. That internal fracture, Sanford said, shows there is a need for a wider dialogue about the future of the Republican Party and what issues it will champion.

"The best you can hope for is a needed conversation, and the best you can really hope for really is some level of duration to that conversation," Sanford said, acknowledging the reality that he faces mammoth odds against getting any traction within the Republican Party.

If Sanford does run, it will be surprisingly easy for him to compete, at least early on. In Iowa, the caucuses are open. In New Hampshire, the state runs the primary, which means he can get on the Granite State's GOP presidential ballot for only a $1,000 filing fee.

Like Sanford, Trump will also be in New Hampshire this week. On Thursday evening, the president will hold a campaign rally at Southern New Hampshire University. 

Sanford won't be there. He flies out Thursday morning.

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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