As the Republican Party fights internally over whether or not to support its controversial Presidential frontrunner, businessman Donald Trump, we thought it would be interesting to hear from a party member on how those conversations are going. Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), the former Governor of South Carolina, joined us this morning to discuss the ongoing primary battle, who he'll support in the November general election and why the party of "Family Values" could be risking a lot by supporting Trump.
TOM ASHBROOK: You've called Donald Trump's roll in this campaign dangerous and destructive. Do you mean for the party? For the country? How?
REP. MARK SANFORD: You can’t call people some of the things that he has without it having a negative effect. Whether that is in politics itself or in the way that, you know, kids think it’s acceptable or not acceptable to talk to each other.
TA: Is Donald Trump a conservative, by your lights?
MS: We don’t know. I mean, I don’t think that conservatism is defined simply by where you are on immigration. I think it is a much broader swath of thinking and so I’ll go back again to one of the basic tenets I think of conservatism, approaching the way you spend in real terms and to completely disregard numbers and to step off into fantasy land and say 'We're going to get the budget right, by waste, fraud and abuse,' doesn't strike me as particularly conservative.
TA: If he should ultimately take the GOP nomination, and he’s done well so far, do you believe he can win in the general election in the fall?
MS: He very well might. Which is why I thought it was important before the candidates left South Carolina to at least drive my own stake in the grown and say this is what I believe and this is where I think he’s wrong.
TA: What would that mean for the Republican Party if you had Donald Trump as the president – punitively, nominally a Republican but with his positions and his approach?
MS: It would mean, I think a couple of different things. I think it would mean some level of redefinition as to what the party is about. Presidents become, in essence, heads of the party, whether it’s Republican or Democrat. I think that for the party of “family values” it would be a bit of a stretch to use some of the language he’s used thus far on the campaign or maybe he'll tone it down afterward. I think it would suggest a move toward economic populism that I think is dangerous. I think there would be down-ballot implications. I know that some of the folks that are in marginal districts are already talking about. Everybody is abuzz in Washington with what comes next, and in the cloak room off the floor of the House, people are back there waiting for a vote and one of the things they're talking about is 'What does it mean for my election?' There has been a level of concern because the idea of having to defend the next crazy thing he says is not something people relish.
TA: Would you vote for Donald Trump in the general election?
MS: You know, I am a Republican and therefore in the final analysis I believe that I would support our nominee, that’s where I’ve always ended up. But this one would be a particularly tough pill to swallow so I’d have to assess that and see where things were when we got there.
TA: Do you think he can be stopped?
MS: I don’t believe so. I think that by the middle of March we’ll have a very strong feel for what comes next in the Republican Party and there are two schools of thought – some people say at that point, if he wins the nomination he gives it to Hillary. But there’s another school of thought that given the way he has defied political gravity thus far that there’s no stopping him and we’ll see come November.
This segment aired on February 29, 2016.