Rep. Mark Sanford, a vocal critic of President Donald Trump, lost his South Carolina congressional seat Tuesday hours after the president injected himself into the bitter Republican primary by stoking memories of the incumbent’s public extramarital affair seven years ago. In the most dramatic result in primaries across five states, Sanford was the second incumbent House Republican to lose a primary this year — the latest victim of intense divisions among the GOP in the Trump era.
Though he has a generally conservative voting record, his criticism of Trump as unworthy and culturally intolerant made him a target of the president’s most dedicated supporters, who often elevate loyalty over policy. Sanford was defeated by state Rep. Katie Arrington, who spent her campaign blasting Sanford as a “Never Trumper.” And hours before polls closed, Trump posted a startlingly personal attack on Twitter, calling Sanford “very unhelpful.”
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
“He’s MIA and nothing but trouble,” Trump continued. “He is better off in Argentina.”
The swipe was a reference to Sanford’s unexplained disappearance from the state in 2009, which he later said was part of an affair he was carrying on with a woman in Argentina.