If Tuesday’s political contests were a small referendum on President Donald Trump’s performance and influence thus far, voters in South Carolina (and Virginia) weighed in to say they are still standing with the mercurial leader. Fox News reports that frequent Trump basher and former state Governor Mark Sanford has been defeated by Republican Rep. Katie Arrington, a political newcomer who has already won the vote of Trump supporters and those South Carolina voters in tune with the MAGA agenda.
Arrington’s winning strategy was to relentlessly interrogate Sanford’s strident and frequent criticism of the president and his plans for the nation, contrasted with her own support of the groundwork laid out by President Trump. Casting herself as an effective voice for Republicans, Arrington’s campaign advertisements focus on the negative relationship between Sanford and the president. Sanford, for his part, responded to this line of attack by touting his own conservative credentials, according to the Huffington Post, laying claim to a 100 percent rating from the Club for Growth, a 96 percent rating from the American Conservative Union, and an 86 percent positive rating from the American Chamber of Commerce. These defenses did not make enough of a dent to make a difference.
It seems voters agreed with Arrington as she took a significant victory away from the career politician, eking out a victory with a margin of about 3,000 votes out of around 65,000 total votes cast.
The president himself may have helped tip the scales in her favor, however. Tweeting hours before the polls were set to close in South Carolina, President Trump lambasted Sanford, calling his record into question both professionally and personally.
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 cast Sanford as a man opposed to the brand of progress offered by President Trump and his supporters, and further referenced “Argentina” in a sideline bit of shade that is meant to be evocative of Sanford’s public disgrace in 2009. Sanford was found out for having completely disappeared during his tenure to conduct an illicit affair with an Argentinian mistress, ABC reports. Following this, Sanford was censured by the South Carolina House of Representatives, avoiding impeachment. He concluded his term as governor in 2011, and regained political power in a special election to Congress in 2013 before losing this most recent contest.
It is unclear what his future political plans will be following his defeat.
The president took to Twitter following the results of the South Carolina Republican primary to congratulate Arrington on her successful campaign, while also rubbing a bit of salt in Sanford’s fresh wounds.
My political representatives didn’t want me to get involved in the Mark Sanford primary thinking that Sanford would easily win - but with a few hours left I felt that Katie was such a good candidate, and Sanford was so bad, I had to give it a shot. Congrats to Katie Arrington!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2018
In related news in Virginia, pro-Trump populist Corey Stewart was also awarded a primary victory over his opponent, and will now face off against Hillary Clinton’s former running mate, Democratic Senator Tim Kaine. Promising to run a blue-collar campaign in similar fashion to President Trump’s 2016 presidential, race according to Fox News, Stewart shows no sign of pulling any punches as the primary season rolls on in preparation for the midterm elections.