Rep. Mark Sanford, a vocal critic of President Trump, lost his South Carolina congressional seat hours after the president injected himself into the bitter Republican primary by stoking memories of the incumbent's public extramarital affair several years ago.
In the most dramatic result in primaries across five states Tuesday, Sanford was the second incumbent House Republican to lose a primary this year - and the latest victim of intense divisions among the GOP in the Trump era.
Though he has a generally conservative voting record, his criticism of Mr. Trump as unworthy and culturally intolerant made him a target of the president's most dedicated supporters, who often elevate loyalty over policy.
Sanford was defeated by state Rep. Katie Arrington , who spent her campaign blasting Sanford as a "Never Trumper."
And hours before polls closed, Mr. Trump posted a startlingly personal attack on Twitter, calling Sanford "very unhelpful."
"He's MIA and nothing but trouble," the president continued. "He is better off in Argentina."
The swipe was a reference to Sanford's unexplained disappearance from the state in 2009, which he later said was part of an affair he was carrying on with a woman in Argentina.
Even for a political figure with no shortage of confidence wading into his own party's decision-making, Mr. Trump's attack on Sanford was a bold case of going after a sitting member of Congress. It's almost certain to make other Republicans even more reluctant to take him on, even as Trump has stirs division on trade, foreign policy and the Russia investigation.
In remarks Tuesday night, Sanford was unbowed, saying, "I stand by every one of those decisions to disagree with the president."
Sanford had never lost a political race in South Carolina and his defeat Tuesday was an abrupt end to a roller-coaster political career that included a resignation as South Carolina's governor following his admission of the affair.
After declaring victory Tuesday, Arrington asked Republicans to come together. And she reminded them who she thinks leads them: "We are the party of President Donald J. Trump."
Wednesday morning, the president tweeted about the outcome, saying, "My political representatives didn't want me to get involved in the Mark Sanford primary thinking that Sanford would easily win - but with a few hours left I felt that Katie was such a good candidate, and Sanford was so bad, I had to give it a shot. Congrats to Katie Arrington!"
Sanford was not the only establishment Republican to face a challenge Tuesday. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a close ally of Mr. Trump, was forced into a runoff after failing to muster the required 50 percent vote to win outright.
McMaster, an early supporter of the president's 2016 campaign, had Mr. Trump's full endorsement, marked by a weekend tweet.
But while the president remains very popular in the state, McMaster has been shadowed by a corruption probe involving a longtime political consultant. McMaster received the most votes of the four Republicans running, but will face Greenville businessman John Warren in a second contest June 26.
McMaster, the former lieutenant governor, assumed the governorship last year after Nikki Haley resigned to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
This news has been published by title Mark Sanford Loses After Late Trump Tweet Against Him; 5 States Hold Primaries
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