Sanford has about $120,000 in his federal account and a wide and deep network. Opponents will have to build up their public profiles, operatives say.
Grooms told CQ Roll Call he was considering running and said he thought a viable candidate would have to raise at least $300,000 and probably $500,000 in the sprint of a race. Ticking through his accomplishments as a legislator, he trumpeted his conservative bona fides.
“I have a consistent record of being a conservative,” he said. “I’ve never compromised my principles.”
He said he thought Sanford’s behavior as governor would likely be an issue, and not just his personal shortcomings, but also his behavior as an executive.
But it remains unclear just how much Sanford’s issues will actually sway voters — and whether they’d be willing to forgive him.
The attack on Sanford from some candidates might focus more on his record from his eight years in Columbia and not accomplishing enough there, politicos in the state said.
“It’s not a particularly socially conservative district,” one South Carolina Republican operative said. “I think it’s going to be a referendum on Sanford’s results as governor.”
A Sanford aide noted the former governor’s record of fiscal conservatism, not just during his time in Columbia, but during his six years in Congress.
“At a time when too many Republicans are selling out in Washington, D.C.,” the aide said, “here’s a guy who will take on the fiscal crisis as a true conservative.”
Republican Gov. Nikki R. Haley signed an order this week for the primary to be held on March 19; a runoff, if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, on April 2; and a general election on May 7.
Sanford served in the House from 1995 until 2001. He served as governor from 2003 to 2011.
Sanford declined a request for an interview, but the aide said he continues to seriously consider a bid and is expected to make a decision soon.