Over the last few weeks, this news outlet has indulged in speculation surrounding South Carolina congresswoman Nancy Mace‘s status as a potential vice presidential nominee for the Republican Party in 2024.
Some have speculated that our (idle?) speculation had more to do with my personal affinity for Mace – and our prior business relations – than her standing as a credible vice presidential prospect.
Those are well-placed concerns … or at least they were. Longtime readers of this news outlet recall I was harshly critical of Mace in 2021 when she pulled a Nikki Haley and tried to have her cake and eat it with respect to former president Donald Trump.
Or, when she tried to eat Trump’s lunch.
Since then, though, paths have diverged. Haley has continued to contort herself most inelegantly when it comes to Trump. Mace? She was targeted for defeat by the former president and his MAGA minions – and emerged victorious. Trump quickly read the room in the South Carolina Lowcountry and endorsed his erstwhile rival in the 2022 general election. Since then, Mace’s relationships with the 45th president and the movers and shakers in Mar-a-Lago have been rehabilitated.
“He respects her,” one of those movers and shakers told me last weekend when Trump visited the Palmetto State. “She took his best shot.”
Recently, respect has recently morphed into something more significant … but don’t just take my word for it.
According to reporters Eliza Collins and Siobhan Hughes of The Wall Street Journal, Mace is on a list of “possible vice-presidential candidates” for Trump – who is looking more and more like the presumptive Republican presidential nominee with each passing day.
Described by the Journal article as one of Trump’s “prominent critics,” Mace is now “warming to the idea of supporting Trump and serving alongside him,” Collins and Hughes noted, referencing sources “familiar with her thinking.”
“Mace is an unlikely name on the list,” the reporters acknowledged, citing her prior criticism of Trump following the January 6, 2021 rioting at the U.S. Capitol building.
But according to their sources, Mace has “grown more open” to the idea of endorsing Trump and is “open to being (Trump’s) running mate if offered” the position.
As I have previously noted, Mace’s 2022 win in South Carolina’s first district provided a blueprint for the GOP as it eyes uphill electoral math at the national level. After navigating an incredibly dangerous primary minefield last spring – one in which she faced the full fury of the MAGA movement – Mace entered her general election in a very vulnerable position. Her base was badly divided, and the well-funded Democrat she faced that fall was confident in her ability to recapture this deep purple 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 the district via third party attacks against her.
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” – taking plenty of heat from social conservatives in the process.
Mace deftly pushed back against the abortion attacks 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 …
Mace romped to a landslide win. Breaking down her 14 percentage point margin of victory, she flipped 40 percent of previously held Democratic precincts and even managed to win deep blue Charleston County by nearly 4.5 percentage points. Exit polls showed her cleaning up with female voters – and suburban voters.
How did Trump do with those two groups in 2020? Not well … at all.
Mace has continued to chart a principled, independent path following her 2022 win – voting against GOP leadership on a big debt ceiling vote earlier this year.
“This bill had no limit on the debt ceiling at all,” she 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 it cost Mace absolutely nothing with moderates.
The Journal reporters managed to get in a dig at Mace in their article, suggesting her recent kabuki dance with Trump – whose campaign employed her as a strategist in 2016 – was all about self-interest.
“Some people have advised Mace that repairing her relationship with Trump would help her in any future statewide elections, as the state is far more conservative than her competitive district,” they wrote.
I’m sorry, but … her competitive district?
Again, the last time I checked, a 14 percentage point landslide win was an absolute curb-stomping – not a “competitive” election.
Also, the political calculus is currently cutting the other way. While Mace is indeed being courted by a host of GOP donors to run for governor of South Carolina in 2026 – it is the former president who must face the Palmetto State electorate first in this February’s ‘First in the South’ presidential primary.
And while tacking back to Trump – and being linked to his vice presidential search – certainly helps Mace at the statewide level in future election cycles, it is Trump who is looking to pick up boat speed at the moment. Mace’s endorsement would be a big win for him in this key early-voting primary state. Not to mention a major loss for Haley, Ron DeSantis or Tim Scott.
Do I think Mace will wind up on the 2024 ticket? Not necessarily, but you don’t get the gig unless you’re on the radar … and Mace is very much on Mar-a-Lago’s radar right now when it comes to the vice presidency.
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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