MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Mark Sanford’s first presidential campaign stop in New Hampshire began with an interruption in the hopes of being heard.
Sanford, the former South Carolina governor and congressman, entered a Manchester diner and found his way to an AARP meeting in the back. “Can I be rude?” he asked them, trying to introduce himself amid the din of the breakfast diner. He later bounced from booth to booth to chat with other patrons at the restaurant.
The 59-year-old is the third Republican 2020 candidate to campaign in New Hampshire in hopes of denting President Donald Trump’s reelection chances. Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld announced his run in April but has struggled to gain much of a following despite repeated trips to the state. Joe Walsh, a former tea-party-backed, one-term congressman from Illinois, announced his run last month and made a little-noticed first trip to the state earlier this month.
With several states canceling their early voting contests, the New Hampshire primary is likely the best chance for insurgent GOP candidates to make a show of force against Trump.
“I think that a place like New Hampshire that’s open to ideas, has a good percentage of independents, is going to prove fertile ground in this larger exploration of whether or not there can be alternatives to Trump in the modern Republican era,” Sanford said.
Sanford’s first day of campaigning in New Hampshire called for the diner visit in Manchester and a lunchtime stop at the popular Puritan Backroom restaurant. He also hoped to speak to the Concord GOP at a pizzeria Thursday night.
By luck, some of the voters Sanford encountered at the diner were 2016 GOP primary voters who are less than thrilled with the Trump presidency.
“A lot of us over here can’t stand what (Trump’s) doing,” Ernest Chabot, a 72-year-old Republican who voted for then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the 2016 GOP presidential primary and cast a ballot for Green Party candidate Jill Stein in the general election.
Others, like 46-year-old independent Kim Mattucci, pressed Sanford on his stance on climate change. Sanford said he believes climate change is real. Mattucci later said she didn’t know anything about him before he walked into the diner.
“I think it’s good,” Mattucci said. “I think Trump probably needs some people to challenge him. I think the American people deserve to have more options.”