Sitting Down With A Fallen Star
DES MOINES, Iowa — It has been said that Iowans will not vote for a presidential candidate unless they are able to sit down and talk to them at their kitchen table. While I did not have the opportunity to welcome long-shot Republican presidential candidate Mark Sanford into my home, I did get to sit down with him at Jethro’s BBQ. Sanford is a former governor of South Carolina and Chair of the Republican Governors Association (RGA). A decade ago, Sanford was a shining star of the Republican party and many contemplated his presidential future. Yet, as Sanford ate his burger across from me at Jethro’s BBQ, his eyes looked tired and worn. It was hard to see this presidential candidate in his former glory as a leader of the Republican party.
When Sanford arrived, he walked through Jethro’s and politely introduced himself to the diners, handing out trifold brochures with his campaign branding on the front. Inside the handout, Sanford had numerous graphs displayed depicting the American economic climate and debt crisis. It became clear that his campaign was centered on fiscal conservatism, a term that in his eyes had been lost from the political conversation. Sanford spoke about the country’s debt being dangerously high and the needing to do something to counteract this troubling route the country is headed. After greeting other guests, he sat down at our table.
Our conversation focused first on the impending national debt crisis Sanford forecasted if not addressed quickly. Then, other guests and I instructed Sanford on the operation and history of the Iowa Caucus, the merits of agriculture policy positions, and whether or not his campaign strategy thus far was viable.
If any part of this former governor truly wants to be President, it was hard to identify at dinner and is even more difficult to see in available data. The latest polling on the Republican primary has President Trump with an 85 percent spread from his closest Republican competitor and has Sanford polling at only two percent, according to the Economist and YouGov. Furthermore, Gallup has Trump’s job approval among Republicans at 91 percent. The biggest story to tell for Sanford, as disappointing as it may be, is no story at all. While competition is never a bad thing, it seems very unlikely that Sanford will be able to use Iowa to miraculously forge a path to the White House. From what I saw during our evening at Jethro’s, it seems that his time at the top of the Republican party has slipped through his fingers.
As we left Jethro’s, no campaign staffer took down our email, we were not asked for our names, and we were not offered literature materials. Any campaign staffer worth their salt would be pulling their hair out at the lack of organization of the Sanford campaign. One must wonder if Sanford actually cares about getting a delegate at the Republican national convention or if he is simply spending this time on the trail reminiscing on what could have been if he did not fall from grace a decade ago.