The surprise defeat of South Carolina GOP Rep. Mark Sanford last night to a primary challenger, State Rep. Katie Arrington, who made his criticism of President Donald Trump a focal point of her campaign, brought into focus the looming presence the commander-in-chief has over an already chaotic midterm cycle for the Republican Party.
"He is MIA and nothing but trouble", Trump said. He is better off in Argentina"-the last part a reference to the 2009 scandal in which then-Governor Sanford disappeared for a few days, first saying he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, and later revealing he was having an extramarital affair in Argentina". He'd earlier held the seat from 1995 to 2001; he won it again in a 2013 special election.
On Wednesday morning as he was about to touch down at Joint Base Andrews near Washington, Trump acknowledged that his political advisers had pressed him to stay out of the SC primary, "thinking that Sanford would easily win". She is tough on crime and will continue our fight to lower taxes.
Hostin described the "upside" of Sanford's defeat in terms of the "the year of the woman".
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., who clashes frequently with party leaders, responded to Trump's tweet with one of his own defending Sanford.
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Fourth, if many of those endangered Republicans lose, the Trump party left behind will be more radical, nativist, protectionist and irrational (because they blindly follow an irrational president).
With 65 percent reporting, first-term state Rep. Katie Arrington is on the verge of unseating a S.C. political fixture for the past 25 years. He is better of in Argentina.
Democrats will also be watching the outcomes of Virginia's 2nd District (GOP Rep. Scott Taylor), 7th District (GOP Rep. Dave Brat) and 5th District (retiring GOP Rep. Tom Garrett), where they hope to be competitive in the fall.
To be sure, the president's track record of picking winners and losers in elections is not ideal.
"Yes, of course it's his party", said Doug Heye, a former top House GOP leadership aide who is now a party strategist.
Other Republicans rallied to Sanford's defense. "But the 35% that are Trump voters will represent a small minority in the general election".
"Women have been leading the resistance, leading in activism and come November they will lead the way in Democrats taking back the House", said Christina Reynolds, top strategist for EMILY's List, a Democratic organization that recruits and funds pro-choice Democratic women to run for office. Also, why did it take so long for Trump to get into the game?
House Speaker Paul Ryan downplayed the rift between Sanford and Trump Wednesday and said there are always going to be winners and losers in the same party during primary season. But he has accused the president of contributing to the coarsening of the national political discourse, and that turned the primary into a test of whether loyalty to Trump is more important to Republican voters than a lawmaker's record.