Pri­mary elec­tion les­son for GOP: Don’t cross the pres­i­dent

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Lisa Mascaro and Meg Kin­nard

WASH­ING­TON» Don’t cross Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

That’s the les­son many Repub­li­cans are draw­ing from U.S. Rep. Mark San­ford’s sur­prise de­feat Tues­day in his pri­mary elec­tion in South Carolina. The vic­tor, state Rep. Katie Ar­ring­ton, re­peat­edly high­lighted San­ford’s crit­i­cism of the pres­i­dent.

The out­come is a cau­tion­ary tale for Repub­li­cans in Congress who try to work with Trump while also main­tain­ing their in­de­pen­dence. One wrong turn — or in San­ford’s case, many — and they could face the wrath of a pres­i­dent who is quick to at­tack de­trac­tors as en­e­mies, even in his own party.

“That’s ul­ti­mately what the race de­volved down to, which was, was I Trump enough?” San­ford told re­porters on Capi­tol Hill.

“It’s a very tribal en­vi­ron­ment right now,” he said. “Are you for or against Trump?”

He said he hoped his de­feat would not dis­suade other mem­bers from speak­ing out against Trump. Agree­ing to dis­agree is “a sign of health in our po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.”

San­ford is the sec­ond in­cum­bent House Repub­li­can to lose a pri­mary this year, though the de­feat of Rep. Robert Pit­tenger in North Carolina came de­spite his staunch sup­port for the pres­i­dent.

Still, San­ford is only the lat­est ca­su­alty in the in­tra­party con­flict that has roiled the GOP in the Trump era. Trump is known to re­mem­ber slights from law­mak­ers.

Rep. Martha Roby, for ex­am­ple, was forced into a runoff last week in Alabama af­ter her op­po­nents seized on her own rift with the pres­i­dent. In 2016, af­ter the re­lease of a tape in which can­di­date Trump bragged about grab­bing women, Roby said she wouldn’t vote for him for pres­i­dent.

Re­cent re­sults have a mes­sage, said Rep. Barry Lou­d­er­milk in neigh­bor­ing Georgia: Be a team player or Trump will sup­port some­one who will be.

“It doesn’t make me ner­vous, but it prob­a­bly gives pause to some who want to openly crit­i­cize the pres­i­dent,” he said.

Trump cel­e­brated San­ford’s de­feat on Twit­ter, claim­ing suc­cess in oust­ing a foe. In a highly un­usual move for a pres­i­dent, he had tweeted an en­dorse­ment of Ar­ring­ton on Tues­day af­ter­noon when polls were still open in South Carolina.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.