Sudden Media Respect for Mark Sanford as He Loses in S.C. GOP Primary

June 13th, 2018 7:47 PM

The press is simplistically treating South Carolina Congressman Mark Sanford's Tuesday Republican primary loss as exemplifying the price one pays if one doesn't learn, per the Associated Press, "not to cross (President Donald) Trump." A closer look at Sanford's history illustrates that this is a classic case of sudden media respect which ignores why Sanford was so vulnerable.

While he was South Carolina's Governor in 2009, Sanford, then considered potential 2012 presidential timber, disappeared for five days. He claimed he got lost hiking the Appalachian Trail, but he had really gone to Argentina pursuing an extramarital affair.

Press ridicule, mostly deserved, followed. Sanford's forced, clinical contrition came as not genuine. It wasn't enough to save his marriage. However, in the interest of doing a victory dance on Sanford's presidential ambitions and smearing Republicans as sexual hypocrites, the Associated Press first ran a ridiculously biased story headlined "Cheating SC Gov Says God Will Make Him Better," and later filed a national story on his return to work which contained no real news. I noted that the latter story's only conceivable justification was "a need to keep fresh the memory that a fiscally conservative Republican had an affair."

Sanford avoided impeachment and finished his gubernatorial term in January 2011, re-emerging two years later to run for Congress after then-First District representative Tim Scott replaced Jim DeMint in the U.S. Senate.

Helped initially by the fact that 17 candidates ran in the March 2013 GOP primary, Sanford won the April 2013 GOP runoff. CNN was clearly rooting against him, and rest of the establishment press openly promoted Democratic opponent Elizabeth Colbert Busch.

This is where the media narrative solely blaming Trump for Sanford's defeat Tuesday implodes:

  • Sanders only defeated Busch, justifiably reviled as a terrible candidate, by 9 points.
  • Although he ran unopposed in 2014, Sanford got a stiff GOP primary challenge in 2016, defeating his opponent by 11 points.
  • In the 2016 general election, Sanford defeated an extraordinarily weak Democrat with 59 percent of the vote.
  • But in 2010 and 2012, Tim Scott won general-election victories with 66 and 62 percent of the vote, respectively.

This track record of primary challenges and relatively underwhelming general-election victories in one of the most conservative districts in the U.S. indicates that voters there only tolerated Sanford, hoping that someone better would come along. That person ended up being Katie Arrington, whose four-point  victory by 2,600 votes probably would have happened without the President's eleventh-hour tweet.

That's not stopping the press from sympathizing with Sanford despite ridiculing and despising him in the past:

  • On The View Wednesday, Joy Behar said that Sanford's loss proved that "if you dare to speak against the king, Donald Trump ... will screw with you."
  • Politico claimed that Sanford's loss was "a stunner." That's hardly the case.
  • MSNBC (!) even characterized Sanford as someone who "spoke up from time to time, usually on matters of principle." When's the last time MSNBC gave any Republican or conservative credit for having principles?

Cross-posted at