Sanford defeated in primary defined by support for Trump
Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) appears to have lost his Tuesday primary, which became a referendum on his criticism of President Trump.
State Rep. Katie Arrington, who hammered Sanford as a traitor to Trump, is projected to win the GOP primary in a victory that may spell the end of Sanford’s long political career in the state.
That criticism became the centerpiece of Arrington’s campaign — she blasted Sanford as a “Never Trumper” on the stump and in campaign ads, arguing that the district would be best served by a Trump ally instead of an antagonist.
She also savaged him for his affair, airing an innuendo-laden television ad that told Sanford to “take a hike,” a reference to his initial cover story that he had been hiking the Appalachian Trail when he had really gone to Argentina to see his mistress.
That strategy won Arrington a last minute endorsement of Trump, who tweeted his support for her hours before the polls closed.
“Mark Sanford has been very unhelpful to me in my campaign to [make American great again]. He is MIA and nothing but trouble. He is better off in Argentina,” Trump wrote.
“I fully endorse Katie Arrington for Congress in SC, a state I love. She is tough on crime and will continue our fight to lower taxes. VOTE Katie!”
Mark Sanford has been very unhelpful to me in my campaign to MAGA. He is MIA and nothing but trouble. He is better off in Argentina. I fully endorse Katie Arrington for Congress in SC, a state I love. She is tough on crime and will continue our fight to lower taxes. VOTE Katie!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 12, 2018
However, it’s unclear how important that tweet was to the final margin, considering it was sent less than three hours before the polls closed.
Sanford is not the first incumbent to pay for a lack of fealty to Trump — Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) was forced to a primary runoff earlier this month thanks to her repudiation of Trump during the 2016 campaign. But unlike Sanford, her hopes are still alive.
Arrington will now go on to face Democrat Joe Cunningham, a former ocean engineer turned lawyer who has mounted a serious campaign but is considered a significant underdog in a district Trump won by about 12 points in 2016.
Updated at 12:28 a.m.