(CNN) - Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford stepped off the political sidelines on Friday, saying he is still searching for a Republican presidential candidate to support.
In the process, he lobbed some thinly veiled criticisms at two candidates already in the race, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
"Right now, I've been disappointed on the degree to which people are stepping out or not on real remedies," Sanford said during a Fox News interview. "Whether it is saying OK, we can grow at a certain percentage rate of growth that hasn't happened in 30, 40 years as a way of solving economic problems. Certain folks have not weighed into the debate until after it passed. I think that is not what we need."
Pawlenty rolled out an economic plan in June that included the optimistic goal of a 5% annual growth rate for the nation, a target that economists and political observers dismissed as unrealistic.
And Romney was recently criticized by Democrats and some Republicans for not taking a firm position on the federal debt ceiling debate until a deal was reached. Romney then came out against it.
Sanford, who spoke out on spending and debt issues long before the tea party movement arrived, named New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan as two Republicans he would support because of their willingness to make unpopular fiscal decisions.
"I would say the attributes that I'm looking for at this point is a combination of Paul Ryan and Chris Christie," Sanford said. "I think we need somebody who is willing to get under the hood as Paul Ryan has, in real detail not political platitudes, but in real detail say here's where we can cut here, here's where we can reform here's where we can change. I think he's done a remarkable job on that front."
Though his second term ended in January under a cloud of scandal following his dramatic admission of an affair with an Argentinian woman, Sanford left the governor's mansion with solid approval ratings and a following among grassroots Republicans who admired his unapologetic fiscal conservatism.