Poll: Pro-Trump Challenger Katie Arrington Tied with Never Trump Mark Sanford Days Before Primary

Katie Arrington running for GOP primary in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District
Katie Arrington/Facebook
Washington, D.C.

A new poll out of South Carolina’s first congressional district suggests another potential anti-incumbent upset looms, as longtime incumbent Never Trump Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) is tied with his pro-Trump challenger state Rep. Katie Arrington just days before the primary this coming Tuesday on June 12.

In the survey of 315 registered voters, Sanford is at 39.7 percent and Arrington is at 39 percent–a statistical tie. Other recent polling in the race, while scant, has suggested a trend toward Arrington in the final weeks, and if these numbers are accurate it could signal a coming upset of another anti-Trump incumbent much like what happened on May 8 in North Carolina’s ninth congressional district.

Back then in nearby North Carolina, Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC)–another longtime incumbent who is not as anti-Trump as Sanford is but nonetheless has not been with the president on a number of key issues–lost his primary to the very anti-establishment Dr. Mark Harris.

In the South Carolina newspaper The Post and Courier, reporter Caitlin Byrd summarized the poll’s results this way:

The findings released late Thursday by Momentum National show Sanford’s lead in the House primary race is razor-thin.

The poll asked 315 likely Republican primary voters in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District who they would vote for if the election took place that day.

Less than one point separated Arrington and Sanford, with 39 percent saying they would pick Arrington while 39.7 percent said they would choose Sanford.

That’s a tight margin ahead of Tuesday’s GOP primary, and one that is well within the poll’s 4.5 percent margin of error.

But there is opportunity for both candidates as the primary nears: 21.3 percent of likely Republican primary voters polled were still undecided.

In South Carolina’s first congressional district, this race pits the Never Trump movement squarely against the president and his supporters. Sanford, a former governor whose term ended in disgrace after he was caught having an affair in South America, made a political comeback several years ago by running for and winning the House seat he currently holds–one he held before his governorship as well.

Sanford is a conservative, and a member of the House Freedom Caucus, but he has regularly criticized President Donald Trump viciously including most notably accusing the president of being at least partially to blame for the shooter of the congressional baseball game GOP practice last year that left House Majority Whip Steve Scalise critically wounded. Scalise has made a recovery, and is serving in his capacity as whip again.

But Sanford accused President Trump of being “partially” to blame for the shooting.

“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 about the shooting 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 has also said the allegations against Trump by porn star Stormy Daniels are “deeply troubling.”

Arrington, meanwhile, has focused her campaign on how she would support the president. In an interview this past weekend on Breitbart News Saturday, Arrington said that a “poignant part of my platform” is “supporting our president and getting our bold conservative agenda across.”

“He [Sanford] has no clue what true Republicans in the first congressional district want done,” Arrington said. “We want to support our president. We want to see the border wall built. We want to protect this nation. And he’s just out there, I say, in ‘Mark-Land.’ It’s an academic ideology that does not translate to the actual meat of what America is. It’s really, really sad.”


As Arrington has gained ground, however, Sanford has dialed back his criticisms of Trump–even claiming in a recent ad that he has voted with the president “overwhelmingly.”

This new poll out of South Carolina’s first congressional district seems to signal a trend, but The Post and Courier also cautions it may be an outlier. “This poll could be an outlier, or it could be a harbinger,” Byrd wrote. “You can never know until it’s all said and done. In politics, it ain’t over till it’s over. The GOP primary is Tuesday.”

But, the local newspaper reporter also added that while it is a bit shocking it is this close in the home stretch, it is not that surprising because there have been many other signs–as Breitbart News has also reported–of a tightening race.

“As we’ve reported, there have been public signs of a tight race, specifically in the attack ads,” Byrd wrote. “It’s unusual for an incumbent to name their challenger by name in any ad. Sanford released two ads this election season in which he took a swing at Arrington by name after she questioned his support of President Donald Trump and took aim at his character by bringing up his extramarital affair in 2009.”