I won’t bore you by rehashing yesterday’s post about the most interesting primary in America tonight except to encourage you to read it if you haven’t already. The race between Nancy Mace and challenger Katie Arrington has it all — intense interest from Trump, high-profile surrogates on both sides, and an acid test of how far a backbench Republican can go in crossing the Great MAGA King before she becomes unelectable in her district.
The fact that Tom Rice, one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, is being primaried in the same state today means we’ll have a fascinating pair of results by the end of the night to analyze. I suspect Mace will end up winning while Rice will end up losing, leaving the punditocracy to try to tease out a theory from those outcomes of what is and isn’t disqualifying to a Republican primary electorate. There are three obvious differences between the two incumbents:
1. Rice voted to impeach whereas Mace merely voted to certify Biden’s victory on January 6. Impeachment may be a singular red line for Republican voters.
2. As Politico noted this morning, Rice has stood by his impeachment vote and continues to criticize Trump whereas Mace has grown more timid in antagonizing him over time. Look no further than these two clips as evidence of her change in tone:
11 days after the insurrection, Nancy Mace👇🏼: “How do we hold a president accountable that put all of our lives at risk?…We need to rebuild the Republican Party…I want to be a new voice….”
— Vaughn Hillyard (@VaughnHillyard) June 14, 2022
Mace is following what we might call the “Brian Kemp strategy” in primaries. If Trump is mad at you, you take your lumps with a smile, refuse to hit back, and pitch voters instead on what you’ve accomplished for them. Rice, on the other hand, is following what we might call the “Liz Cheney strategy.” He’s telling it like it is and letting the chips fall where they may:
WATCH: Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) defends his vote to impeach fmr. Pres. Trump, telling @VaughnHillyard that Trump “is the past.”@RepTomRice: “The Constitution is the source of our freedom and our prosperity. … I don’t want Donald Trump or anybody else to rip it to shreds.” pic.twitter.com/31ubDWNNSD
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) June 14, 2022
Rice and his family know what it’s like to be menaced by the crazed core of Trump’s base, with his wife telling Politico that she was scared to be outside in the days after his impeachment vote and warned her son not to walk alone at night. That’s a common thread that binds every Republican who’s crossed Trump in a splashy way — they all end up being threatened with death by the most fascist elements of the Trump personality cult. I suspect that contributed to Rice’s determination to keep speaking out. He’s simply not going to let those cretins shut him up.
3. Rice and Mace each had big-name surrogates campaign for them but one was much bigger than the other. Rice had, uh, Paul Ryan. Mace had popular former governor Nikki Haley, and not just for a one-off event. Haley has been on the trail with her the last few days and even cut this commercial:
— Ken Farnaso (@KLF) June 14, 2022
I think Haley sees the Mace/Arrington race as an unusual, maybe even unique opportunity to flex her political muscle at Trump’s expense. They’re arm-wrestling to see whose proxy prevails in SC-1. I think Haley will win that wrestling match, thanks in part to the advantage of incumbency Mace enjoys.
As for Rice, he’s a longshot but a victory in his primary would be even more shocking than Kemp’s landslide in Georgia, a true “Is Trump losing his grip on the party?” moment. Realistically, to win his race in SC-7, he needs to top 50 percent tonight; if he falls short and ends up in a runoff two weeks from now, Trump will likely jet into his district and rally Republicans there to throw him out of office. Although if we do get a runoff, I’ll be intrigued to see if any big Republican names jump in on Rice’s side to send a message to Trump that supporting impeachment shouldn’t be disqualifying for a GOPer. Would Mike Pence campaign for Rice? Would an emboldened Haley?
Polls close in South Carolina at 7 p.m. ET. You can follow results live moment by moment below by choosing the proper district in the dropdown menu in the upper right. I’ve also embedded the results for Nevada’s Senate primary, a contest between former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt and upstart Sam Brown. Laxalt has been endorsed by Trump, McConnell, and even Ron DeSantis but Brown has been making him sweat by attacking him for not doing enough to, ahem, stop the steal in 2020. Laxalt is likely to win but Brown has an outside chance. And given the political trends in Nevada, whoever prevails in this race will probably land in the Senate next year.