Trump Scorches Mark Sanford on Primary Day: ‘Better Off in Argentina’

Sanford already faced a difficult primary matchup before the president posted the explosive tweet recalling the S.C. politician’s 2009 extramarital affair.

Kevin Lamarque

Incumbent Congressman Mark Sanford was already in a bit of a fight ahead of Tuesday’s Republican primary in South Carolina. And then came an explosive tweet from the president of the United States.

“Mark Sanford has been very unhelpful to me in my campaign to MAGA,” President Trump wrote Tuesday afternoon, just hours before the polls closed in the Palmetto State. “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!”

The reference to Argentina recalls a sordid chapter of Sanford’s political career in 2009 when he disappeared without explanation, only to later admit that he had traveled to Argentina to carry on an extramarital affair with a “dear friend” there.

The ex-governor of South Carolina has been the target of vicious attacks in the 2018 congressional primary because of his unrelenting criticism of Trump.

In February 2017, Sanford told Politico that Trump had “fanned the flames of intolerance.” Furthermore, he has called Trump’s tariffs on aluminum and steel “an experiment with stupidity,” and said that the president was “partially” to blame for the polarized rhetoric that led to a shooting at a GOP congressional baseball practice.

State Rep. Katie Arrington, who Trump endorsed in the Tuesday tweet, has portrayed Sanford as an opponent of the president in her ads and even referenced the same salacious affair Trump did.

“Bless his heart, but it’s time for Mark Sanford to take a hike—for real this time,” Arrington said in one of her ads, referring to Sanford's initial lie about his whereabouts during the affair when he claimed to have been hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Should Sanford lose on Tuesday night, it would prove again that fealty to President Trump is perhaps the most important metric in conservative Republican primaries. Just last week, incumbent Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) was forced into a runoff after she said during the election that she would not vote for Trump after the Access Hollywood tape came out.

Sanford’s colleagues in the House Freedom Caucus, including chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) defended Sanford shortly after the president’s fiery tweet.

“He’s one of the most principled, consistent, and conservative members of Congress I’ve ever known,” Amash tweeted at Trump. “And unlike you, Mark has shown humility in his role and a desire to be a better man than he was the day before.”