It’s been a very good run of late for South Carolina Republican congresswoman Nancy Mace. As recently as last spring, many were writing her political obituary as she stared down a credible, well-funded primary rival backed by none other than former U.S. president Donald Trump.
In “First in the South” Carolina, having Trump come after you is generally a death sentence – something former U.S. congressman Tom Rice found out the hard way. And even if she managed to avoid becoming MAGA roadkill, Mace was considered a dead duck in her general election last November.
Despite facing the full fury of the MAGA movement, though, Mace emerged triumphant in her primary race – garnering 53.1 percent of the GOP vote over Trump’s hand-picked challenger. And if that trick weren’t sufficiently impressive, Mace cruised to a 14 percentage point win over a credible, well-funded Democrat last fall.
That’s amazing … especially when you consider Democrats captured this district in 2018 and lost it by a mere 1.3 percentage points (to Mace) in the November 2020 election.
Looking within her winning margin, Mace flipped 40 percent of previously held Democratic precincts and even managed to win deep blue Charleston County by nearly 4.5 percentage points.
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That’s some serious coalition-building … and it’s one of many reasons growing numbers of national Republicans are sizing up the 45-year-old sophomore congresswoman. Cobbling winning margins in key swing states isn’t going to be easy next fall – especially if Trump is on the ticket.
Finding people who have done it before? Yeah … how’d that turn-of-the-century Mastercard commercial go? “Priceless.”
“She turned a purple district red by running one of the smartest campaigns I have seen in some time in the Palmetto State,” I noted last fall, referring to Mace as “a force to be reckoned with in Washington, D.C. as well as a potential king (queen?)maker in the upcoming ‘First in the South’ presidential primary in South Carolina.”
Mace’s increasingly influential status is the focus of a new spread in Politico this week from reporter Natalie Allison. And while the headline focused on her purported status as one of Trump’s “unlikeliest top defenders” following his latest indictment, the real story behind the insider scoop is Mace’s unofficial entry into the 2024 veepstakes.
While the mainstream press are focused relentlessly on former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley – and the state’s junior U.S. senator, Tim Scott – as potential Trump No. 2’s, the smart money is beginning to gravitate toward elected officials who are not currently seeking the presidency against Trump.
Is Mace among them?
“I’m willing to bury the hatchet to save the country, and I know President Trump is too,” Mace told Allison for the Politico exclusive.
But is this “hatchet-burying” confined to Mace potentially endorsing Trump in the Palmetto State come February? Or is there a potentially deeper alliance forming? One which could conceivably end up with Mace on a Trump 2024 ticket (or at the very least on a vice presidential short list)?
After navigating an incredibly dangerous primary minefield last spring, Mace entered her general election in a very vulnerable position. Her base was badly divided following the primary – and the well-funded Democrat she faced was confident she could recapture the district following Mace’s razor-thin win in 2020. When the U.S. supreme court overturned Roe v. Wade, the hill got even steeper for Mace – with millions of dollars in national pro-choice money flooding into her district.
While some “Republicans” retreated, Mace leaned into the abortion issue. Regular members of our audience will recall her deeply personal efforts on this issue as a member of the S.C. House of Representatives. She succeeded, for example, in getting rape, incest and life of the mother exemptions included in early versions of the “heartbeat bill” – and took plenty of heat from conservatives for her efforts.
Mace pushed back against the abortion attacks against her with a television ad setting the record straight – highlighting her legislative accomplishments and accusing her opponent of lying in an effort to “hide her extreme views.”
It worked …
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Mace carried independents and women in this erstwhile purple district – and she absolutely cleaned up in the deep purple suburbs. With Biden carrying an estimated 55 percent of women voters and 54 percent of suburban voters in 2020, these are critical GOP target demographics in 2024.
Since her reelection, Mace has continued to chart a principled path – including voting against GOP leadership on that big debt ceiling vote three weeks ago.
“This bill had no limit on the debt ceiling at all,” Mace said in a video recorded after her vote. “It also put into law record high levels of spending created during the Covid pandemic era. To put that into law as your baseline spending going forward – I just can’t even imagine how we sold out our kids and grandkids.”
Conservatives rejoiced at her vote … and Mace lost precisely zero ground with her more moderate backers.
Following her 2020 election, I noted Mace was ideally positioned to gain “full spectrum” GOP support. Obviously, her aggressive rhetoric against Trump following the January 6, 2021 rioting at the U.S. Capitol complicated that calculus – and for awhile it seemed destined to cost her reelection.
But Mace has made a remarkable rebound … silencing her critics on the right (including me) while at the same time winning over broad swaths of independent voters (including those whose ballots are likely to determine the 2024 election).
Who is to say her rebound doesn’t propel her into the real battle for the second slot on the GOP ticket next fall?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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