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But since Sanford emerged from a crowded Republican primary, easily won the general election and came to Washington last year, Mulvaney has been pleasantly surprised. He’d been a delegate for Reagan at three presidential conventions.With Sanford, governor for less than 18 months, sitting in the front row, Courson told the mourners that their tall and lean chief executive with the conservative views was Reaganesque and could one day become president.He added that Mulvaney made it clear he did not want to deliver the message but did so at Trump’s insistence.While Trump has been clear about his dissatisfaction with members of the House Freedom Caucus, of which Sanford is a member, the president hasn’t threatened any other congresspeople with a primary challenge.Sanford rarely bent, and he lambasted his peers even when they were willing to give him 90 percent of his agenda. As governor, Sanford once took piglets into the Statehouse lobby between the South Carolina House and Senate chambers to illustrate wasteful spending, infuriating fellow Republican legislators who saw themselves as frugal.Now, back in Washington, Sanford is trying to keep a low profile and steer clear of anything that might smack of a flamboyant stunt.Mulvaney thought that the whole sordid scandal surrounding Sanford would become a debacle for Republicans should the former governor rejoin Congress.
Mulvaney, who was a state legislator for the second half of Sanford’s stint as governor from January 2003 to January 2011, backed another candidate in last year’s crowded Republican primary for that election.
While he was far from the only Republican to break with the White House on Trumpcare, Sanford is one of only two GOP Representatives to sign a letter calling on Trump to release his tax returns.
And few, if any, members of Trump’s own party have been as willing to criticize him since the inauguration as Sanford has.
But again Sanford surprised everyone, joining Congress in May 2013 via a special election.
Sanford’s rise from the political dead was made possible by a fluke. Jim De Mint abruptly retired in January 2013 to take over the Heritage Foundation, Washington’s leading conservative think tank, Gov. Tim Scott to replace him in the Senate, forcing a special election for Scott’s House seat.