CHARLESTON, S.C. — At a marketing campaign occasion the weekend earlier than South Carolina’s main election, Tom Rice, a conservative congressman now on the mistaken aspect of former President Donald J. Trump, provided a confession.
“I made my subsequent election a bit of bit more durable than those in the previous,” he mentioned on Friday, imploring his supporters — a bunch he known as “cheap, rational of us” and “good, stable mainstream Republicans” — to assist him on the polls on Tuesday.
Two days earlier than and a few 100 miles south, Representative Nancy Mace, one other Palmetto State Republican who drew the previous president’s ire, acknowledged her place whereas knocking doorways on a sweltering morning.
“I settle for all the pieces. I take duty. I don’t again down,” she mentioned, assured that voters in her Lowcountry district could be sympathetic. “They know that ‘hey, even when I disagree along with her, a minimum of she’s going to inform me the place she is,’” she added.
Ms. Mace and Mr. Rice are the previous president’s two targets for revenge on Tuesday. After a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, they had been amongst those that blamed the president for the assault. Ms. Mace, simply days into her first time period, mentioned that Mr. Trump’s false rhetoric concerning the presidential election being “stolen” had stoked the riot and threatened her life. Mr. Rice, whose district borders Ms. Mace’s to the north, instantly condemned Mr. Trump and joined 9 different Republicans (however not Ms. Mace) in later voting for his impeachment.
Now, in the face of main challenges backed by the previous president, the 2 have taken starkly totally different approaches to political survival. Ms. Mace has taken the tooth out of her criticisms of Mr. Trump, looking for as a substitute to debate her conservative voting file and libertarian streak in coverage discussions. Mr. Rice, as a substitute, has dug in, defending his impeachment vote and additional excoriating Mr. Trump in the method.
Should they fend off their main challengers on Tuesday, Ms. Mace and Mr. Rice will be part of a rising record of incumbents who’ve endured the wrath of the G.O.P.’s Trump wing with out ending their political careers. Yet their conflicting methods — a mirrored image of each their political instincts and the differing politics of their districts — will supply a have a look at simply how far a candidate can go in their defiance of Mr. Trump.
In the eyes of her supporters, Ms. Mace’s previous feedback are much less concrete than a vote to question. She has aimed to enhance her relationship with pro-Trump parts of the G.O.P., spending almost on daily basis of the previous a number of weeks on the marketing campaign path to remind voters of her Republican bona fides, not her unfiltered criticism of Mr. Trump.
“Everyone is aware of I used to be sad that day,” she mentioned of Jan. 6. “The whole world is aware of. All my constituents know.”
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Her district, which stretches from the left-leaning corners of Charleston to Hilton Head’s conservative nation golf equipment, has an citizens that features far-right Republicans and liberal Democrats. Ms. Mace has marketed herself not solely as a conservative candidate but in addition one who can defend the politically various district in opposition to a Democratic rival in November.
“It is and at all times shall be a swing district,” she mentioned. “I’m a conservative, however I additionally perceive I don’t characterize solely conservatives.”
That is just not a constructive message for all in the Lowcountry, nonetheless.
Ted Huffman, proprietor of Bluffton BBQ, a restaurant nestled in the center of Bluffton’s touristy city heart, mentioned he was supporting Katie Arrington, the Trump-backed former state consultant taking over Ms. Mace. What counted in opposition to Ms. Mace was not her feud with Mr. Trump however her relative absence in the restaurant’s half of the district, Mr. Huffman mentioned.
“Katie Arrington, she’s been right here,” Mr. Huffman mentioned, recalling the few occasions Ms. Arrington visited Bluffton BBQ. “I’ve by no means seen Nancy Mace.”
During a Summerville occasion with Nikki Haley, the previous South Carolina governor, Ms. Mace gave a stump speech that ran down an inventory of right-wing speaking factors: excessive inflation pushed by President Biden’s financial agenda, an inflow of immigrants on the Southern border, assist for navy veterans. She didn’t point out Mr. Trump.
Ms. Mace predicts a decisive main win in opposition to Ms. Arrington, who has positioned her Trump endorsement on the heart of her marketing campaign message. A victory in the face of that, Ms. Mace mentioned, would show “the weak spot of any endorsement.”
“Typically I don’t put an excessive amount of weight into endorsements as a result of they don’t matter,” she mentioned. “It’s actually the candidate. It’s the particular person individuals are voting for — that’s what issues.”
Speaking from her entrance porch in Moncks Corner, S.C., Deidre Stechmeyer, a 42-year-old stay-at-home mom, mentioned she was not carefully following Ms. Mace’s race. But when requested concerning the congresswoman’s feedback condemning the Jan. 6 riot, she shifted.
“That’s one thing that I agree along with her on,” she mentioned, including that she supported Ms. Mace’s choice to certify the Electoral College vote — a transfer that some in the G.O.P. have pointed to as a definitive betrayal of Mr. Trump. “There was simply a lot battle and uncertainty. I really feel prefer it ought to’ve been licensed.”
Mr. Rice’s impeachment vote, alternatively, presents a extra identifiable turnabout.
It’s half of the explanation Ms. Mace has a snug lead in her race, according to recent polls, whereas Mr. Rice faces way more main challengers and is almost certainly headed to a runoff with a Trump-endorsed state consultant, Russell Fry, after Tuesday.
Mr. Fry’s marketing campaign has centered Mr. Rice’s impeachment vote in its message, turning the vote right into a referendum on Mr. Rice’s 5 phrases in Congress.
“It’s about greater than Donald Trump. It’s about an incumbent congressman dropping the belief of a really conservative district,” mentioned Matt Moore, former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party and an adviser to Mr. Fry’s marketing campaign.
Still, Mr. Rice is betting on his hyper-conservative financial file and once-unapologetic assist of the previous president to win him a sixth time period in one of South Carolina’s most pro-Trump congressional districts.
In an interview, Mr. Rice famous the Republican Party’s shift towards pushing social points over coverage — one thing he mentioned had been pushed in half by the previous president’s wing of the occasion, which helped redefine it.
He additionally laid out what the Republican Party ought to stand for: “much less taxes, much less authorities, extra freedom, particular person duty, the American Dream,” he mentioned. “If we’re not for that, then, gosh, I don’t know what the Republican Party’s about.”
The impeachment vote has additionally gained him favor with some voters. Rick Giles, a Rice supporter in Conway, S.C., mentioned he admired Mr. Rice for his vote.
“He stood as much as Trump when quite a bit of individuals didn’t,” Mr. Giles mentioned. “He stood on his values. He didn’t go along with the occasion line. I like that.”
Mr. Rice’s district, in South Carolina’s northeast nook alongside the North Carolina border, is one of the state’s most conservative, favoring Republicans by almost 30 factors. And earlier than the impeachment vote, Mr. Rice was one of Mr. Trump’s most staunch supporters, with a voting file that matched Mr. Trump’s stance greater than 90 p.c of the time.
“It’s not about my voting file. It’s not about my assist of Trump. It’s not about my ideology. It’s not as a result of this different man’s any good,” Mr. Rice mentioned. “There’s just one purpose why he’s doing this. And it’s only for revenge.”
Mr. Trump has had much less success in the states on the root of his main challenger push. In Georgia, two of his most distinguished perceived enemies, Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, handily gained their primaries in opposition to challengers backed by the previous president. The two House races the place he didn’t endorse incumbents have gone to a runoff.
Mark Sanford, a former congressman who was bested by Ms. Arrington in 2018 after Mr. Trump backed her main problem, predicted that Ms. Mace would prevail.
“I feel she’ll be high-quality,” he mentioned, pointing to the state’s rising quantity of transplants from northern states who are inclined to favor institution candidates. “That bodes nicely for Nancy, it doesn’t bode nicely for Katie.”
Still, he mentioned, Tuesday’s final result is unlikely to vary the previous president’s strategy to politics.
“It’s binary with Trump,” Mr. Sanford mentioned. “You’re not midway in, midway out — you’re both in or out.”