Trump urges Republicans to oust Rep. Mark Sanford in primary

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Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), shown in 2009, faced a Republican challenger in Tuesday’s primary. (Davis Turner/Getty Images)

President Trump has urged South Carolina’s Republicans to oust Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) in Tuesday’s primary — the first time the president has endorsed an opponent over an incumbent of his adopted party.

“Mark Sanford has been very unhelpful to me in my campaign to MAGA,” Trump tweeted. “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!”

Trump sent the tweet just three hours before polls closed in South Carolina’s 1st District, but loyalty to the president had become a defining issue of the campaign. Arrington, a state legislator backed by a number of the state’s Republican leaders, had attacked Sanford for criticizing the president and voting against a funding bill that would have shifted some money to the construction of a border wall with Mexico. One of Arrington’s strategists, Michael Biundo, had been an adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign.

“Thank you, Mr. President!” Arrington tweeted on Tuesday afternoon. “Together we will continue to Make America Great Again!”

Sanford did not immediately response to a request for comment, but in an interview Monday, he said that he had not spoken to the president since last summer, when members of the House Freedom Caucus were summoned to the White House to discuss efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. When asked whether he thought Trump would intervene in the race, Sanford looked at his watch.

“Not yet, but I guess we’ll find out tomorrow,” he said.