When Donald Trump traveled to South Carolina a few months ago for a rally, he came with directions for local Republican voters: Rep. Nancy Mace, the former president said, was a “grandstanding loser” who deserved to be “dumped” on Primary Day.
Before Trump spoke, he and his team had former state Rep. Katie Arrington — Mace’s Republican rival, who’d already received the former president’s endorsement — help rally the crowd.
It didn’t work. The State newspaper in Charleston reported overnight:
Republican Nancy Mace defeated Katie Arrington in one of South Carolina’s most hotly-contested primary congressional races Tuesday night, delivering another setback to Donald Trump’s primary endorsement record.... The Associated Press called the race for Mace at 11:13 p.m., showing Mace with about 53 percentage points to Arrington’s nearly 45%.
For Arrington, whose “platform“ called for President Joe Biden’s impeachment, the defeat was not the first such setback. Four years ago, then Rep. Mark “Appalachian Trail“ Sanford was deemed insufficiently loyal to Trump, and he lost to Arrington in a Republican primary. She lost the general election, however, to Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham.
This year, she tried again, received Trump’s backing again, and fell short again.
As for how and why Mace became a Trump World villain, the congresswoman has been more idiosyncratic than most House Republicans, especially those in red states. Circling back to our earlier coverage, there’s no doubt that the South Carolinian is a conservative who very rarely votes with Democrats — no one would think to call Mace a “moderate” — but she’s broken with her party’s orthodoxy on a handful of occasions.
The day after the Jan. 6 attack, for example, the idiosyncratic congresswoman said Donald Trump’s legacy had been “wiped out“ by his role in the insurrectionist riot. She soon after complained, “We have allowed QAnon conspiracy theorists to lead us.” Months later, Mace also voted with the majority to enforce a subpoena against Steve Bannon.
Perhaps most notably, after Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert directed anti-Muslim rhetoric at a Democratic colleague, Mace denounced the Coloradan’s bigoted smear. This sparked a feud with Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, whom Mace called a “bats--- clown” by way of Twitter emojis.
The right-wing Georgian took her concerns to Trump directly, as if he were the grown-up teacher who’d help mediate a conflict among fighting children.
It had a lasting effect: In February, the former president announced his support for Arrington, calling the incumbent congresswoman “absolutely terrible” and “very disloyal.”
Mace maintained considerable support, however, from the GOP at the state and local level — former Gov. Nikki Haley, in particular, helped champion her candidacy — which helped make a difference yesterday.
This was clearly not the outcome Trump wanted to see. To be sure, candidates backed by the former president fared quite well in plenty of primaries yesterday, but for those keeping score, Trump’s overall record suddenly looks a little worse.
As recently as three weeks ago, the former president’s team was still bragging about the potency of his endorsement. One of the Republican’s spokespersons told The New York Times, “The reality is, President Trump is already 82-3 with his endorsements, and there’s nothing stopping him from saving America in 2022 and beyond.”
As we discussed soon after, the use of the word “reality” was problematic. Trump has padded his win-loss record with support for GOP incumbents facing little-to-no opposition, creating an exaggerated picture.
Regardless, the former president’s boasts continue to face setbacks. In addition to yesterday’s failed endorsement in South Carolina, four Trump-backed Republicans were easily defeated in Georgia in late May.
Those losses came on the heels of related defeats for Trump-backed candidates in Nebraska’s gubernatorial race, Idaho’s gubernatorial race, and a North Carolina congressional primary.
Earlier this year, the former president said his endorsement “is considered by the real pollsters to be the strongest endorsement in U.S. political history.” He added that his record is “almost unblemished.”