Mr. Sanford’s change in fortune had been apparent all day. It is less exciting, for example, to watch a football game while wedged in the middle of a row of beer-guzzling, high-fiving, highly excited just-out-of-college guys on a sweltering day than it would be to observe it with your grateful adult friends from the uncrowded comforts of an air-conditioned governor’s box.
And while his office once gave him a formal position from which to make his political pitches, Mr. Sanford now appears at times to be just calling into the wind with a message much of his party is unwilling to hear.
But, in some ways, his outsider status and trimmed-down campaign suit him fine. He has the air of a penitent still atoning for past mistakes, and said that his experience has brought him “a deeper humility and a deeper understanding of our shared humanity.”
Rumors of his frugality are not exaggerated. For lunch, Mr. Sanford might eat a can of French-style green beans spruced up with a little dressing, at a cost of 79 cents.
“It’s in the DNA,” he said. “When I was governor, I pared it down to one security guy. Some governors love having these phalanxes, but I’ve never been an entourage kind of guy. John, what did I tell you on the drive up?”
“You said, ‘Don’t get too close to me so that it looks like an entourage,’” Mr. McKinney said.
It is a hard time to be a non-Trumpian Republican, Mr. Sanford said, but he feels a deep obligation to spread his messages: first, that the government has to rein in its spending and address the out-of-control deficit, and second, that Donald Trump is not the only Republican out there.
“In fairness to the Democrats, they’re having a robust debate about what it means to be a Democrat,” he said. “It’s a mistake not to have it on the Republican side. In all of the thousands and thousands of conversations I have had over 25 years in politics, I know that there is a market for someone other than Trump in the Republican Party.”
He wants everyone — or anyone who will listen — to know that he would like to be that someone.
“You have to go in with your eyes wide open and to understand that there are different levels of goals and success,” he said. “I’m taking it one day at a time.”