Criticism of Trump leads to Sanford's demise, experts say

Mark Sanford (Source: WIS)
Mark Sanford (Source: WIS)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Mark Sanford of South Carolina's first congressional district is the latest Republican to be removed from office by voters weary of his criticism of President Trump.

During Tuesday night's primary election, State Representative Katie Arrington defeated Sanford 50.6 percent to 46.5 percent. In doing so, Arrington handed Sanford his first election loss ever. From 1995 to 2001, Sanford held the same U.S. House seat. He then went on to serve as governor of South Carolina from 2003 to 2011. In 2009, he disappeared for several days, creating a scandal that ended with an extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina.

In 2013, Sanford won a special election to regain his former U.S. House seat.

However, Sanford has been critical of President Trump, most recently calling his tariff on aluminum and steel an "experiment with stupidity." He also voted against Trump's border wall proposal.

Political experts say his disagreements with Trump and lack of support likely played a significant role in his latest loss.

"If you take a look at his voting record, you really can't point to anything that has changed there so there must be some other explanation as to people wanting to make a change there," Mike Campbell, a political analyst said. "So if he's being critical of the president and voters are supportive of the president, they want to go out and make a change and get someone that is supportive of the president."

Hours before polls closed Tuesday night, Trump tweeted in support of Sanford's opponent Arrington. The tweet said, "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!"

Sanford conceded to Arrington late Tuesday night.

"I think it's a reminder of the inflection point we're at in American politics," he said. "I've never quit doing what I said that I would try to do. I was rated number one in the entire US Congress in efforts to watch out for your pocketbook or your wallet but those things aren't really selling in DC and they're not selling in this district."

Arrington's campaign focused in large part on Sanford's unwillingness to support Trump and called out his criticisms of the president's style and intelligence.

"South Carolina spoke with a clear voice, it's time, it's time for a change in Washington," Arrington said. "It's time for a true citizen legislator, someone who comes from the private sector, who will stand with the people, who believes in term limits, who will go to Washington to serve her constituents and then, come home."

Trump has also endorsed Governor Henry McMaster in his respective race. Campbell said if Trump speaks out in favor of McMaster ahead of the June 26th run-off with Republican candidate John Warren, it could have a big impact.

"If he were to reinforce that endorsement and speak out or send a tweet, McMaster could feel the effects," Campbell said.

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