FLORENCE, SC (AP) — Under pressure recently to prove her loyalty to Donald Trump, Rep. Nancy Mace traveled to New York and filmed a social media video outside Trump Tower reminding her constituents of South Carolina that she was one of the former president’s “first elected.” supporters.”
Facing similar scrutiny, Rep. Tom Rice took a different approach, quietly meandering through the rural swathes of his congressional district to remind voters of his work to secure federal aid for frequent – often disastrous – floods and of his advocacy for agricultural improvements.
Lifetime Republicans representing neighboring congressional districts in one of the most trusted GOP states in the United States, Mace and Rice are unlikely players in the fierce debate over their party’s future. But they both face fiery primary challenges this summer from Trump-backed rivals who could signal the former president’s hold on the party as he weighs another bid for the White House. The primary is June 14.
The focus on Mace and Rice intensified on Saturday night as Trump held a rally in Florence, South Carolina, cheered on their arch-rivals and accused them of being insufficiently loyal with pointed personal attacks.
“You have two atrocious RINOs right now, they’re bad people in the House who went to Washington, sold you out, and teamed up with the Democrats to stab the Republican Party and frankly stab our country in the back,” Trump said. , using the acronym of “Republican in name only”.
He called Rice a “disaster” who was “laughed at in Washington” and Mace a “crazy” and “terrible person” who “has no idea what she’s doing”, drawing boos from the crowd.
“Luckily, in June, you have the chance to get rid of those big losers and replace them with two rock-solid American champions,” he said.
For Rice, sin was his support for Trump’s second impeachment the day after the violent insurrection of January 6 launched by the president of the time. Mace, meanwhile, drew the ire of Trump and his supporters by voting to certify President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, as well as his support for holding Steve Bannon in defiance of Congress, his frequent television appearances blaming Trump for the insurgency and his ties to one of Trump’s top critics, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.
Ahead of Trump’s visit, the two said their goal was to remind voters of what they had accomplished.
“I’ve provided hundreds of millions of dollars to this district, for disaster relief, tax credits, PPP loans, waterfront renovations, roads,” Rice said in an interview. . “I think if I remind people of that … then I will rely on their verdict. Whatever verdict they give, that is what we will do.
Mace, meanwhile, has touted her support for Trump’s economic and foreign policies.
“I’m the only candidate in this race who has a record that reflects the policies he supports,” Mace said in an interview.
Together, the pair represent South Carolina’s nearly 200-mile coastline. But the contours of their neighborhoods offer different political stakes.
Mace, for example, represents a red-leaning neighborhood rooted in Charleston and its booming suburbs, home to a mix of moderate Republicans, Democrats and Trump loyalists. She used this to her advantage by warning that a Democrat could win the district if Republicans nominate someone too right-wing.
She has history on her side. In 2018, Katie Arrington, her Trump-endorsed rival, managed to knock out incumbent GOP Rep. Mark Sanford, who was at times an antagonist of the then president. But Arrington then lost the general election to Democrat Joe Cunningham, a crushing loss for the GOP.
Mace took over the district in 2020 and Cunningham is now fighting a tough campaign for governor.
In the video outside Trump Tower, Mace reflected on Arrington’s 2018 loss and said she was “more than qualified” to lose the seat again to a Democrat.
Arrington called Mace a “saleswoman” who “is more interested in being a mainstream media celebrity than fighting for the people she’s supposed to represent.” Endorsing Arrington, Trump called Mace an “absolutely terrible candidate” and “very disloyal” to the Republican Party.
Rice, meanwhile, runs in a more reliable Republican neighborhood that stretches from Myrtle Beach golf courses to inland farms and communities like Florence. He faces several rivals, including Russell Frya Trump-backed Republican state representative who said Rice broke voter confidence by backing impeachment.
For Rice, seeking his sixth term means a lot of traveling around the district to remind voters of what he considers his legislative accomplishments. But he knows that some voters will only think of his impeachment votefor which he was censored by the state party.
“I’m going to do my best to explain (the vote) to them, and I don’t have to be aggressive to do that,” he said. “That’s how politics is supposed to be.”
Rice said his best defense was the same type of campaign that won him five terms in the district that Trump won by nearly 20 points in 2020.
“Some people came up to me and said, ‘I was disappointed with your vote,'” Rice said, noting that he felt a lot of voter animosity had died down over the course of the election. past year. “But 10 times as many people said ‘Thank you’.”
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.