After months of buildup, former governor and representative of South Carolina Mark Sanford made it official Sunday by announcing he will primary Donald Trump in the Republican Party race for president in 2020.
Sanford had made it known at least since July that he was considering challenging Trump, who helped knock Sanford out of his congressional seat in 2018 because Sanford had been criticizing the president.
He made the announcement on Fox News Sunday, and followed it up with a series of tweets, explaining in probably way too much detail why he thinks Trump—and Trumpism—are bad for the economy.
“I think we need to have a conversation on what it means to be a Republican,” Sanford told Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace. “I think that as a Republican Party we have lost our way.”
That’s probably an understatement. But here’s the funny thing about Sanford’s run: With all of the grift and corruption and lunacy that has come to define the current administration, the former South Carolina governor’s biggest problem with Trump and the boot-licking Republican Party is the national debt. Huh.
“I’d say the epicenter of where I’m coming from is we have got to have a national conversation, and a Republican conversation, on where are we going on debt and deficits,” Sanford said.
“You honestly think you have a serious chance of beating [Trump]?” Wallace asked, which was pretty funny.
Sanford also criticized the field of Democratic presidential candidates for failing to talk enough about the national debt and government spending, at least in the debates.
“The thing that has been lacking in this debate has been an earnest and real conversation on debt and deficits and government spending, and I find it astounding to watch the number of Democratic debates that I’ve seen, and no mention, no conversation on where we’re going with regard to debt and its implications for every one of us,” he said.
In addition to Trump’s high approval rating within the Republican Party, which Fox News has at about 85%, according to a recent poll, Sanford also will have to confront the fact that the GOP in his own state of South Carolina has joined three other states in scrapping presidential primaries and caucuses this time around. (The other states are Nevada, Arizona, and Kansas.)
In response, Sanford said he plans to use television and other national media formats to get his message across to potential Republican voters (who haven’t already switched parties and registered as Democrats).
“Again, this is the beginning of a long walk, but it begins with that first step, and that’s what I’m announcing here today,” Sanford told Wallace.
And speaking of long walks, another issue Sanford might have to contend with is the fact that economic discussions of substance typically aren’t Trump’s style for interacting with his base. In other words, how is he going to debate the president about these issues? Instead, Trump’s style is theatrics, and Sanford has plenty of that in his not-so-distant political past.
So, will any of this matter? Probably not. Will Sanford change any Republican minds? Probably not. Will the national debt become a top issue that voters care about next year? I guess we’ll find out, but my gut says no.
Watch the entire interview below or read Sanford’s insanely long series of tweets about debt and the economy here.