The Power of a Trump Tweet: Mark Sanford Defeated in Primary After President’s Last-Minute Twitter Attack

June 13, 2018, 11:10 AM UTC
Republican Presidential Debate Watch Party
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 6: Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., speaks with fellow Republicans in the lobby of the Mount Pleasant Cinebarre theater following the Charleston County GOP debate watch party in Mount Pleasant, S.C. on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Bill Clark CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

Rep. Mark Sanford, the Republican incumbent in South Carolina, lost his primary on Tuesday—and a well-timed tweet from President Donald Trump may be responsible for his defeat.

Sanford, a consistent critic of Trump from within the president’s own party, lost to state legislator Katie Arrington.

While Sanford had already expressed reservations at his chances of winning, Trump’s tweet appeared to be the nail in his coffin.

Just hours before the polls closed in South Carolina, Trump tweeted, “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!”

(Trump’s Argentina reference is a nod to a 2009 scandal in which Sanford, then governor of South Carolina, claimed to have been hiking the Appalachian Trail during a several-day absence, but later admitted to an affair in Argentina.)

On Tuesday night, Sanford called Trump’s decision to weigh in on the race “fairly unusual,” but nevertheless remained steadfast that he is “neither for nor against Trump.” Regardless of his own position vis-a-vis the president, however, Sanford noted that Trump’s tweet “may cost me an election in this case but I stand by every one of those decisions to disagree with the president.”

For his part, Trump doubled-down on his opinions in a second tweet Wednesday morning, writing, “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!”

This was Sanford’s second stint serving as representative of South Carolina’s 1st District. He had originally held the position from 1995 to 2001, winning again in 2013. In between, he served two terms as the state’s governor. He is the second House Republican to lose a primary this election cycle.

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