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Trump responds to Mark Sanford's 2020 bid by bringing up Sanford's 2009 affair again

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President Donald Trump took aim at former South Carolina governor and congressman Mark Sanford's White House bid against him. File/Wade Spees/Staff

President Donald Trump on Monday morning scoffed at Mark Sanford's GOP White House bid by tweeting material he's used to criticize him in the past: His 2009 affair and failed 2018 congressional race.

In a pair of tweets just before 7 a.m., Trump shared a condensed version of Sanford's political and personal past, including Sanford's 2009 extramarital affair with an Argentine journalist. 

"When the former Governor of the Great State of South Carolina, @MarkSanford, was reported missing, only to then say he was away hiking on the Appalachian Trail, then was found in Argentina with his Flaming Dancer friend, it sounded like his political career was over. It was," Trump tweeted.

"...but then he ran for Congress and won," Trump wrote, referring to Sanford's 2013 special election win, "only to lose his re-elect after I Tweeted my endorsement, on Election Day, for his opponent. But now take heart, he is back, and running for President of the United States."

The president then zeroed in on the trio of GOP challengers he has drawn: Sanford, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh.

"The Three Stooges, all badly failed candidates, will give it a go!" Trump said.

Asked about the president's comments during a CNN interview Monday morning, Sanford said Trump can say "whatever he wants" and he has a "pejorative word for all kinds of different folks."

The tweets mark the latest chapter in the ongoing public acrimony between Trump and Sanford.

It also marked the second time Trump falsely claimed Sanford's former paramour, Argentine journalist Maria Belen Chapur, was a dancer.

Before Sanford officially declared his presidential bid against Trump on Sunday, the president called Sanford "Mr. Appalachian Trail" in a string of tweets Aug. 27.

Sanford responded in a tweet that would foreshadow his campaign centered on Washington spending but also on where the party is headed.

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"So ready for a President that can move beyond either self praise or put down to one who will focus on the debt & deficit that have gone wild under his time in office. Spending 27% above Obama & deficits even higher. It’s time for a change," Sanford replied in a tweet.

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.”

While campaigning for Gov. Henry McMaster in South Carolina, Trump again brought up Sanford’s 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.

"The Tallahassee Trail – must be a beautiful place. Unfortunately, he didn’t go there,” Trump said, mixing up the reference.

At a 2018 rally in Ohio, Trump referenced Chapur and Sanford while celebrating Sanford's then-recent GOP primary loss.

"We endorsed her," Trump said of Arrington. "And she beat a man that likes flamingo dancers from Argentina."

The proper term for the style of Spanish dance is "flamenco."

Sanford also took aim at Trump when he announced his plans to run for president in an interview on "Fox News Sunday."

During a roughly 10-minute interview with Chris Wallace, Sanford referred to Trump as the "king of debt" while criticizing the president's use of tariffs and warning that the country is barreling toward an economic storm comparable to the Great Depression.

Sanford also said Trump's propensity to respond to issues of the day via tweet "is not leadership."

Sanford said his race against Trump is not personal.

All of Trump's GOP challengers face mammoth odds of securing the presidential nomination, but their efforts could amplify the concerns of Republicans who say their party is in need of a course correction.

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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