We all probably saw this coming: Less than 24 hours after Mark Sanford announced he'd be running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2020, President Trump came after the former South Carolina governor. Trump's Monday morning tweets: "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,.... ...but then he ran for Congress and won, 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 Three Stooges, all badly failed candidates, will give it a go!" A few explainers:
- "The Three Stooges": Trump is referring to his now (with the addition of Sanford) three primary challengers. Fox News notes the other two are former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.
- "Flaming dancer": Maria Belen Chapur, with whom Sanford was having an extramarital affair when he infamously claimed to be hiking the Appalachian Trail, is from Argentina. Trump has previously referred to her as a "flamingo dancer" and apparently just forgot the "o" in Monday's tweet. However, "flamingo dancer" is also not accurate, as the Independent points out: If Trump is referring to the iconic Spanish form of dancing, that's flamenco—and, as the paper notes, "there is no evidence ... Chapur has ever been a flamenco dancer." Last year, Chapur herself went after Trump for referring to her as a "flamingo dancer," the Post & Courier reported at the time: "President Trump, with all respect Flamingo (sic) is a Spanish dance, Spain is situated geographically in the European continent (just in case you ignore it)," she wrote on Facebook. "Tango is the Argentinian dance ... though for sure you don't care at all."
- That endorsement: Trump is referring to the fact that, after Sanford's two terms as governor ended in 2011, he won a seat in Congress after a special election in 2013. However, he lost his primary battle for re-election in 2018 after Trump endorsed his opponent.
- Just the most recent jab: Sanford first announced back in July that he was exploring a presidential run, and Trump first jabbed at the idea in August on Twitter. "Can you believe it? I'm at 94% approval in the Republican Party, and have Three Stooges running against me. One is 'Mr. Appalachian Trail' who was actually in Argentina for bad reasons."
- What the numbers mean: Meanwhile, Sanford spoke to CNN Monday and said it's significant that Trump now has three primary challengers. When it was just one, Sanford said, Trump could basically ignore it. But "when you end up with three candidates and three different candidates saying there's something wrong with this presidency, what's going on here is not consistent with the Republican Party that we know about, believe in, and invested major portions of our life in, that's a different conversation," he said. Asked about Trump's "Three Stooges" comment, Sanford said the president has a "pejorative word for all kinds of different folks."
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