Will Voters Tell Mark Sanford To 'Take A Hike' For His Criticism Of Trump? The South Carolina Republican survived an infamous sex scandal as governor. But now he faces his toughest primary challenge yet with an opponent who is hitting him for his opposition to Trump.
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Will Voters Tell Mark Sanford To 'Take A Hike' For His Criticism Of Trump?

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Will Voters Tell Mark Sanford To 'Take A Hike' For His Criticism Of Trump?

Will Voters Tell Mark Sanford To 'Take A Hike' For His Criticism Of Trump?

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Here's one reason many Republicans may be very careful about criticizing President Trump - most Republican voters approve of him, and Republican lawmakers are going through primaries. Tomorrow's South Carolina primary is a test for a Republican who tried a different approach. Mark Sanford is the state's former governor who famously had an affair and claimed he was hiking the Appalachian Trail at the time. Sanford survived that embarrassment and is now a congressman who has criticized President Trump. And NPR's Jessica Taylor reports that calls for another survival act.

JESSICA TAYLOR, BYLINE: Mark Sanford doesn't like to fall in line, so it's not surprising he's blamed the leader of his party for the decline in political discourse. Here's what he told MSNBC last June following the shooting at a Congressional baseball practice.

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MARK SANFORD: I would argue that the president has unleashed - is partially - again, not in any way totally but partially to blame for demons that have been unleashed.

TAYLOR: His primary challenger, State Representative Katie Arrington, has seized on those comments and taken digs at his infamous sex scandal while she's at it.

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KATIE ARRINGTON: I'm running for Congress to get things done, not to go on CNN to bash President Trump. I'll cut spending, strengthen our military and get rid of the career politicians. Bless his heart, but it's time for Mark Sanford to take a hike - for real this time.

TAYLOR: Former South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Matt Moore, who once worked for Sanford, says this is his most serious challenge so far.

MATT MOORE: But he always wins. So despite, you know, curious things he might have said about President Trump or previous troubles while he was governor, he just keeps winning.

TAYLOR: At a recent debate, Arrington argued she would be a loyal foot soldier for the president.

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ARRINGTON: Mark Sanford has spent the better part of two years bashing our team captain, President Trump, on CNN. He's made it his actual job.

TAYLOR: The congressman rebutted that it's his job to listen to the people, not the president.

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SANFORD: We've got to ask ourselves, who's the captain? And I would argue at the end of the day, every one of you are. And I believe in an inverted political system. I believe that power and authority ought to rest at the most local level possible.

TAYLOR: And Sanford said he hasn't obstructed Trump's agenda.

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SANFORD: Have I disagreed with the president some? Yes. Have I been upfront about that? Yes. But I've been equally upfront in the overwhelming number of my votes in being with the president and being with the Republican Party.

TAYLOR: Just last week, Republican Congresswoman Martha Roby of Alabama was forced into a runoff because of her own criticism of Trump. And prominent Trump critics like Tennessee Senator Bob Corker and Arizona Senator Jeff Flake decided not to run for re-election given the current direction of the Republican Party. College of Charleston political science chair Gibbs Knotts says it's a trend in this year's primaries.

GIBBS KNOTTS: Seems like it's the cardinal sin amongst primary voters, particularly primary voters in certain parts of the country. Yes, if you speak out against Trump, or if you're anti-Trump or not a hundred percent behind him - you know, for a Republican in the South, that can be a really difficult situation.

TAYLOR: Tomorrow Sanford will find out if voters will indeed tell him to take a hike. Jessica Taylor, NPR News.

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