James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

2012 Watch: Mark Sanford visits DC

June 4, 2009

I had the pleasure this morning of attending a small breakfast gathering with South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, a potential contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Sanford talked a lot about his legal fight to reject stimulus money from the federal government. Well, not so much about the legal details, but more the philosophy behind his stand. He says he is extremely concerned that the government’s debt problems are approaching a “tipping point” that will lead to higher inflation and a weaker dollar — all characteristics of “banana republic economies.”  Sanford also said that Obama’s stiff-arming of GM creditors is an assault against private property rights and the rule of law, creating uncertainty in America’s business community about ” what the rules are” and potentially freezing business invesment here. ( He added that a meeting with folks on Wall Street confirmed his suspicions on this matter.)

I asked the governor about Democrats using concerns about the budget deficit as an excuse to raise taxes. He said he didn’t see much appetite out in America for higher taxes, given the success of the “tea party” movement and the rejection of tax-hikes measures in California.

A few observations:

1) He called himself a “low-key” kind of guy. I think that is a pretty  accurate self assessment, though it was pretty  early in the morning and he got into town late last night.

2) If Mitt Romney is a CEO, then Sanford came across as a CFO. It kind of reminded me of company conference call where the CEO gives that analsysts the sales job and then calls in the CFO to run through the numbers. I am not sure what kind of salesman Sanford would be as a presidential candidate, but he does comes acrosss as whip smart, even wonky guy.  Also a very “suburban” vibe.

3) Just a hunch, but I think he would market himself as a guy who could restructure government and make it leaner and more efficient, sort of governor for the nation. It wouldn’t be a “cult of personality” sort of campaign.

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