Sanford, long known for wearing his emotions openly and speaking his mind, has been one of the most high-profile Republican Trump critics in Congress. He’s called the president’s tariffs on steel and aluminum “an experiment with stupidity.” He’s called Trump’s disparaging remarks about Haiti and African nations “something stupid.” He’s said that Trump has done some “weird stuff” in office.
During the 2016 campaign, Sanford said Trump should “just shut up” and stop focusing so much on his critics. He’s said that the president was “partially” to blame for the toxic rhetoric that led to the shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.). He’s said that “trading slights seems essential” to Trump’s personality, and he gave an extensive interview to POLITICO Magazine in which he said the president had “fanned the flames of intolerance.”
Sanford insists that his discord with the president isn’t anything personal, but rather rooted in deeply held beliefs. As an example, he points to his dispute with the administration over its proposal to open the South Carolina coastline to drilling. After hearing complaints from constituents, he said he had little choice but to raise concerns with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, to whom he’d grown close while they served together in Congress — and who was almost his roommate.
“I’m not looking for disagreement with the administration,” Sanford said. “But it comes to, you cannot walk away from it if you’re really listening to the people I spend so much time with here at home.”
Yet he’s given an opening to Arrington, who’s betting that voters in the conservative district, which stretches from the Georgia border to north of Charleston, want a congressperson who’s in lockstep with the president. The 47-year-old state representative has aired a spree of TV commercials portraying Sanford as an avowed Trump opponent, including one that shows the congressman savaging the president in a series of spliced-up cable news interviews.
Much of her bid has been oriented around the president. She has tapped Mike Biundo, who served as national senior adviser on Trump’s 2016 campaign, as a top strategist.
In a Sunday afternoon interview following an event at the welcome center for the U.S.S. Yorktown battleship, Arrington said voters in the district had grown tired of Sanford’s opposition to the president.
“We need a seat at the table. Our president is going to be the president until 2020 at a minimum, or 2024, and Mark has ostracized him to the point where there will never be a seat at the table for him,” she said.
Sanford's own internal polling is clearly setting off alarm bells, because he's spent nearly $400,000 in advertising on the primary in just the last couple of weeks. Once you're in the party of Trump, your political career only leaves in a sandwich bag. I'm honestly surprised that Sanford thought he could just skate by, but we'll see if he pays the price tomorrow. North Dakota, Nevada, Maine, and Virginia also have GOP primaries on Tuesday.
Also, could you imagine the reaction by the press, the GOP, and the horseshoe theory end of the far left if a Democratic candidate had made this kind of pronouncement about President Obama in the 2010 or 2014 midterms, where a Democratic primary candidate declared a that a sitting House Democrat who was a vocal critic of Obama would "never have a seat at the table?"
It would have been a national scandal for months, proof of Obama's fascist tendencies or something. Alas, such a pronouncement these days of course about a the Trump party having no seat at the table for a Trump "critic" like Sanford (who still votes with Trump 73% of the time, by the way) doesn't even raise an eyebrow.
By the way, SC-1 is an R+10 district, definitely a GOP advantage but not an overwhelming or unbeatable one in a blue wave scenario. Democrats running in the primary include Charleston attorney Joe Cunningham, who announced his bid last June, and former Charleston mayoral candidate and non-profit director Toby Smith, who says she's running as a protest candidate. Cunningham will most likely win, and he's been gunning for Sanford for over a year now.
Sanford may have much larger troubles in November at this rate...that is if he survives tomorrow, not a sure thing.