Never Trump Rep. Mark Sanford Flailing Heading into Primary with Pro-Trump Challenger

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) waits for his introduction during a town hall meeting March 18, 2017 in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Protestors have been showing up in large numbers to congressional town hall meetings across the nation. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
Sean Rayford/Getty Images
Washington, D.C.

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) is limping into his primary on June 12 against State Rep. Katie Arrington, as Sanford’s repeated public rebukes of President Donald Trump on behalf of the Never Trump movement take center stage in this battle for the ages on the campaign trail in the first in the South presidential primary state.

Sanford, who ran to CNN to refuse to endorse President Trump’s re-election in April alongside the staunch Never Trumper, retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and others, is by all accounts struggling heading into the primary just over a couple weeks from now.

Sanford has attacked Trump for allegations that the president had an affair years ago with washed-up porn star Stormy Daniels–something the establishment media are fascinated with, but, by and large, Republican voters could not care less about–saying the allegations against Trump are “deeply troubling” while admitting he has only been working with the Trump administration “imperfectly.” Sanford even blamed Trump for the shooting at a congressional baseball practice that severely injured House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), stating the president was “partially” at fault for the shooter’s actions.

“I would argue that the president has unleashed, partially, again not in any way totally, but partially to blame for the demons that have been unleashed,” Sanford said in an appearance on the anti-Trump MSNBC show Morning Joe. “The fact that you’ve got the top guy saying, ‘I wish I can hit you in the face. If not, why don’t you, and I’ll pay your legal fees,’ that’s bizarre. We ought to call it as such.”

Sanford, per Politico, has also accused President Trump of having “fanned the flames of intolerance.”

In that 2017 Politico profile by magazine writer Tim Alberta, Sanford lit into Trump, accusing him of representing the “antithesis” of everything he represents. Alberta wrote:

I ask Sanford, in our early February interview, whether it’s fair to say Trump doesn’t impress him. “Yeah, that’s accurate,” he tells me. “Because at some level he represents the antithesis, or the undoing, of everything I thought I knew about politics, preparation and life.”

Sanford, an Eagle Scout, has long been renowned for a work ethic that straddles the line between tireless and maniacal. Famously brutal on staff members—his former speechwriter wrote a book documenting his workplace misery—Sanford recalls holding marathon meetings as a congressman and as governor to review every intricate detail of budgets, bills and other proposals that came across his desk.

“And all of a sudden a guy comes along where facts don’t matter?” Sanford asks aloud. “It’s somewhat befuddling. It’s the undoing of that which you base a large part of your life on.”

Now, though, Sanford is paying the price for his intransigence against the Republican Party and against the president, as Arrington surges ahead in his June 12 primary. Another Republican House member not sufficiently in line with the president’s agenda, Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC), has already lost a primary to pro-Trump challenger Dr. Mark Harris, and Sanford is feeling the same heat Pittenger did in his race ahead of June 12.

Take a look at this new ad that Sanford is airing on television in South Carolina. Now, after spending the past few years bashing Trump, first on the campaign trail, then during the administration, he is attempting to cozy up to the president. Sanford also uses Arrington’s name in his own ad, a sign he is in serious trouble–since it is general practice among politicians to not raise the name ID of their opponents by naming them, unless absolutely necessary:

The key line from Sanford: “Overwhelmingly, I voted with the president.” This, from a guy who basically accused Trump of being a racist who has destroyed the Republican Party, is a pretty remarkable turnaround.

Sanford is still refusing to endorse President Trump’s re-election bid and will not praise the administration’s many successes economically, on immigration policy, on foreign policy, and basically every other front. And he will not take back what he has said in demagoguing Trump to the establishment leftist media, fueling a false and fabricated narrative that Trump is somehow unpopular among Republicans. Trump is not; most polling shows he has sky-high ratings inside the party as core supporters of his agenda are thrilled at all of his successes.

Arrington is out Monday morning with a scathing rebuke of Sanford’s latest ad. In her own ad, she details how Sanford is a “typical career politician” who is “trying to have it both ways” concerning Trump.

Among pro-Trump challengers across the country in primaries–most of whom have won the first rounds of fights from West Virginia to Indiana to Texas and more–Arrington has run a particularly tough and smart campaign. She is doing so well on the campaign trail, partly, because of the gifts her opponent, the former governor who resigned in a disgraceful scandal of epic proportions years ago before making a comeback by getting elected to represent the Charleston area in the U.S. House, keeps giving her.

Every time Sanford mouths off about Trump, Arrington has been right there ripping him for it–showing the voters in the district his hypocrisy and exposing the Never Trump movement for what it is.

“I’m running against a man who is a Never Trumper. He is the Jeff Flake of Congress,” Arrington said of Sanford in a recent appearance on Breitbart News Saturday on SiriusXM 125 the Patriot Channel.

But it is also equally because she has run a very smart campaign. A polling memo obtained by Breitbart News in May showed Sanford at well under 40 percent. The May 10 internal Arrington polling memo showed Sanford down at 34.6 percent, with Arrington at 25.8 percent and 38.5 percent undecided.

After that poll, Arrington went up with an ad on television across the district subtly ripping Sanford for his “hiking the Appalachian Trail” sex-scandal during his time as governor–comparing that dishonesty to Sanford’s Never Trump actions. When Sanford was governor of South Carolina, he served the remainder of his term as governor but then walked away from politics when it turned out he disappeared to South America to engage in an affair–and his office lied, saying the missing-for-days governor was hiking the Appalachian Trail, when he was really in South America being unfaithful to his wife:

In the ad, Arrington says she’s a “conservative businesswoman” running for Congress “to get things done, not to go on CNN to bash President Trump.”

“Bless his heart,” Arrington says of Sanford, using the old Southern adage, “but it’s time for Mark Sanford to take a hike. For real this time.”

While no new polling has been done in this race since that May 10 internal from the Arrington campaign, it appears Sanford–since he is backtracking on his anti-Trump rhetoric and naming his opponent publicly–is in serious trouble of potentially being the second establishment sitting congressman to go down in a primary this year. Both candidates are expected to duke it out in this South Carolina heavyweight battle until June 12, with a major candidate forum just a week away. Sanford’s one weapon, though–his membership in the House Freedom Caucus–is a moot point because Arrington has pledged to join the group, too, neutralizing any reason for Sanford’s colleagues to rush in at his side.

“Mark is an ideologue living in his own bubble,” Arrington said on Breitbart News Saturday recently. “He’s not even in the Freedom Caucus bubble. He’s in Mark-land. He is so anti-Trump.”

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