Former S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford | Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

While the national media punditocracy is babbling about the possibility of GOP stalwart Liz Cheney running for president in 2024, any campaign would run straight through South Carolina, an early primary state.

And as long as former President Donald Trump keeps an iron grip on the Republican Party, Cheney doesn’t have much of a chance here, said party observers like former Gov. Mark Sanford.  

“Until this fever breaks, it’s still a scarlet letter being against Trump, whether he runs or not,” Sanford told the Charleston City Paper today. In 2020, the conservative former governor and congressman ran against Trump in a short-lived primary campaign.  


Cheney, the ranking Republican on the special U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, is considered Trump’s chief Republican critic. On Tuesday, she was beaten in a landslide in a GOP primary for her Wyoming congressional seat by a Trump-backed candidate. She is a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

“In my opinion, no one who won 29% in their most recent statewide primary has any business running for president of the United States,” said state Rep. Mark Smith, a Mount Pleasant Republican who backed Trump in 2020. “Liz Cheney is clearly out of sync with the Republican grassroots.”

The wait for the Kool-Aid to subside

A veteran GOP analyst, who asked to not be named in this story, said South Carolina Republican leaders were unlikely to veer from Trump.

“In this environment with the blind fealty and enthusiastic separation from reality Trump demands and so many eagerly offer, it would be incredibly difficult [for Cheney]. If he is absent, then maybe the effects of the Kool-Aid will begin to subside, but the fear of retaliation that permeates through the current GOP isn’t likely to disappear.”

Sanford said he admired Cheney’s “voice for sanity and what were once conservative, Republican principles,” but the economic angst that Trump tapped into will continue to grow, morphing into something more toxic.

“I admire her pointing to true north, but I know something about tilting at windmills,” Sanford said. “Right now, her message would hardly be the formula for success in South Carolina.”

Smith said he is waiting for the 2024 presidential primary to get closer before worrying about individual candidates.   

“It’s a long time until 2024 and I’m eager to see who runs,” he said. “I look forward to meeting all of the candidates and introducing them to my constituents.”

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