- The Washington Times - Friday, September 20, 2019

Former Rep. Mark Sanford’s primary challenge to President Trump is being dismissed by the lawmaker’s friends in the House Freedom Caucus.

“It’s a gnat on the back of a water buffalo type of thing,” Rep. Andy Biggs, the newly elected chairman of the conservative House Republican group, told The Washington Times.

“The president is not overly concerned with him,” said the Arizona Republican. “You know Mark’s out there. It’s a chaotic type of effort. I don’t think it’s gonna do anything.”

Mr. Biggs agreed with his friend’s focus on addressing fiscal issues such as the rising national debt but said it wouldn’t be able to make a dent in the president’s overwhelming popularity with the Republican base.

“Because if you’re a Never-Trumper, you’re still going to be a Never-Trumper. And if you’re a Trumper, you’re going to be a Trumper,” he said.

Mr. Sanford, who was a Freedom Caucus member during his time in the House, jumped into the race this month, warning that Republicans have lost their way.

“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,” he said on Fox News this month.

Several others, including Rep. Justin Amash and Joe Walsh, have also considered running against the president.

Mr. Biggs cautioned against trusting the “anti-Trump” polling data, arguing they should focus on counting electoral votes rather than generic voters.

“That’s kind of what we were hearing last time in 2016 and it just didn’t materialize,” he said.

As for the House, Mr. Biggs said he’s confident Republicans will win control back in 2020. He said Democrats’ two-dozen seat majority is built on districts they won by a combined 95,000 votes last year.

Generally, Republicans’ plan is to zero in on 31 districts that the president won in 2016, 13 of which were held by more than 6 percentage points.

They’re hoping the president’s popularity will help reverse the 2018 blue wave and help them secure the 19 seats they need to win the majority.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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