Republican Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) has said she thinks she’ll win reelection without the support of former President Donald Trump, whose endorsement or opposition carries substantial weight among GOP voters.
On Jan. 15, Mace told South Carolina’s The State newspaper “I’m going to win without [Trump].”
Mace made the comment after Trump on Feb. 9 threw his support behind GOP primary challenger Katie Arrington.
In 2018, Arrington successfully unseated long-time congressman and former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, winning the GOP nomination to challenge former Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.) in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, which comprises Charleston and its environs. The surprise primary victory came after a public feud between Sanford and Trump.
However, Arrington was defeated by Cunningham in the general election by a 1.4 point margin.
In his endorsement of Arrington, Trump blamed her defeat on a bad car crash right before the election that left Arrington badly hurt and unable to campaign in the critical days before the race and indicated that he’s confident that Arrington can win the general election this cycle.
In 2020, Mace mounted a successful bid for the GOP nomination. At the time, she and Trump were on good terms, and Trump gave Mace a ringing endorsement following her primary victory.
In a tweet, Trump said, “Congratulations on last night’s big win [Nancy Mace]! Keep up the great work so we can #MAGA! We need you in Washington fast! You have my Complete and Total Endorsement!”
But since then, the two have had a major falling-out.
The ongoing quarrel began, in part, due to Mace’s comments about the Jan. 6, 2021, “Stop the Steal” rally.
Trump has denied culpability for the breakdown of order during the event, which he roundly criticized the same day it happened. The former president and his allies in Congress have blamed the breakdown on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) refusal to send in the National Guard ahead of the event, despite repeated requests to do so by former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund.
Just days after the rally, Mace told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Republicans should “hold [Trump] accountable” for having “put all our lives at risk.”
In his endorsement of Arrington, Trump called Mace “an absolutely terrible candidate … whose remarks and attitude have been devastating for her community, and [are] not at all representative of the Republican Party to which she has been very disloyal.”
For many Republican candidates, gaining the support of the former president is important. Polls have shown that, even though he’s currently out of the White House, Trump’s endorsement continues to have a marked effect on the voting habits of many Republican voters.
Meanwhile, on Feb. 7, Mace received the endorsement of former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Haley, who also served in Trump’s administration as U.N. ambassador, is credited by many South Carolinians with having brought jobs and industry to the state, and retains substantial influence over state politics.
“Nancy Mace is a fighter who stands up to Biden’s reckless spending, punches back against lawless lockdowns and mandates, and is strong on border security,” Haley said in a tweet. “That’s why I’m proud to endorse my congresswoman, [Nancy Mace], for reelection.”
Following Trump’s endorsement of Arrington, Mace responded on Twitter, saying, “Bring. It. On.”
Arrington has marketed herself as a Trump-adjacent America First conservative, in contrast to Mace who, Arrington said, “sold out President Trump.”
However, despite a strong streak of electing Republican congressmen, South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District has been somewhat less friendly to Trump. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won 50.6 percent of the vote in the district compared to 42.8 percent for Trump. Biden solidified that lead in 2020, winning 55.5 percent of the district’s vote to Trump’s 42.6 percent.
Mace also has the advantage of being the incumbent.
Since Arrington lost her election in 2018, putting a Democrat in the district’s House seat for the first time in decades, some otherwise-friendly Republicans may be nervous to give Arrington another shot at the seat and risk another loss to a Democrat. By contrast, Mace has shown herself to be electable in the district, even if some GOP voters were chafed by her remarks on Jan. 6.
On the other hand, Arrington’s 1.4 point loss in the district was a close one, and Republicans are widely expected to make significant gains in the House this year. Either candidate will likely have a better than average chance at defeating their Democratic challenger in November, given the discontent with President Joe Biden and the Democrat-controlled Congress.
Still, to get to that point, both Mace and Arrington will first have to survive the primary, and amid a flurry of competing endorsements, the nomination is sure to be a hard-fought one.