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Sanford suspends GOP primary challenge to Trump

Mark Sanford dropped his challenge to President Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday, saying the focus on impeachment has made it impossible for his campaign to gain traction.

"You've got to be a realist," Sanford said outside the New Hampshire statehouse. "What I did not anticipate is an impeachment."

The former South Carolina governor and congressman announced his decision to suspend his campaign on the eve of televised impeachment hearings in the U.S. House. He centered his campaign on warnings about the national debt, but said Republicans were more interested in defending Trump from the threat of impeachment.

Republican presidential candidate former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford speaks during a news conference in front of the Statehouse, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019, in Concord, N.H., where he announced he is ending his longshot 2020 presidential bid. Sanford centered his Republican primary challenge to President Donald Trump on warnings about the national debt. But he struggled to gain traction since announcing his run in September. (AP PhotoElise Amendola)

"It was a longshot, but we wanted to try and interject this issue, how much we're spending, into the national debate which comes along once every four years," Sanford said. "I don't think on the Republican side there is any appetite for a nuanced conversation on issues when there's an impeachment overhead."

Impeachment aside, Sanford's campaign faced other hurdles as a handful of state parties canceled their primaries and other nominating contests, including in Sanford's home state of South Carolina.

His decision to end his run comes little more than a week after he moved his campaign's "home base" to New Hampshire.

Republican presidential candidate former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford speaks during a news conference in front of the Statehouse, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019, in Concord, N.H., where he announced he is ending his longshot 2020 presidential bid. Sanford centered his Republican primary challenge to President Donald Trump on warnings about the national debt. But he struggled to gain traction since announcing his run in September. (AP PhotoElise Amendola)

Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld and former Rep. Joe Walsh are still mounting GOP primary challenges to Trump.

Republican presidential candidate former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford speaks during a news conference in front of the Statehouse, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019, in Concord, N.H., where he announced he is ending his longshot 2020 presidential bid. Sanford centered his Republican primary challenge to President Donald Trump on warnings about the national debt. But he struggled to gain traction since announcing his run in September. (AP PhotoElise Amendola)