The TAKE with Rick Klein
How an unlikely pair of incumbents in South Carolina fare in Tuesday’s primaries could go a long way toward defining survival strategies for Republicans — at least so long as Donald Trump retains dominance.
Both Rep. Nancy Mace and Rep. Tom Rice earned themselves Trump-backed primary challengers after their breaks with the former president. That includes their refusal to embrace false claims about the 2020 election that are back in public consciousness via Jan. 6 committee hearings this week.
But how they have handled their races make for different case studies in attempts to find viable paths inside Trump’s GOP.
Mace cast one of her first votes in Congress to certify President Joe Biden’s victory — warning, just hours before the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, of the “unconstitutional precedent” of doing otherwise. Since then, she has leaned on an unusual assembly of boldfaced conservative names (Nikki Haley, Paul Ryan, Mick Mulvaney) to make a case about electability and the danger of her district going back to the Democrats.
Mace responded to attacks by the former president by filming an appeal to voters in front of New York’s Trump Tower earlier this year. No such videos have come from Rice, a low-key conservative in a deep-red district who is defiant in defending his vote to impeach Trump in the wake of Jan. 6.
“I did it then. And I would do it again tomorrow,” Rice told ABC’s Jonathan Karl in a recent interview on “This Week,” adding that he remained “livid” over Trump’s actions and inactions on Jan. 6.
The partisan makeup of their districts could mean different things in their primary races, with Rice in particular in danger of being forced into a runoff in an area where Trump remains popular.
But for Republicans looking for further signs of Trump’s influence, they’re likely to again see some of its limits — and will have some notes for themselves on how to navigate Trump-friendly forces going forward.
The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema
As evidence against false claims of election fraud take center stage in the Jan. 6 hearings, the fallout of those baseless conspiracies is still looming over primaries in battleground states like Nevada, where voters will cast ballots in primary races on Tuesday.
Despite losing in Nevada twice, Trump remains a popular figure among state Republicans and made notable endorsements in this year’s Senate and gubernatorial primaries by respectively backing former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo. In a twist, Laxalt, who served as Trump’s 2020 Nevada campaign chair, now faces criticism from his opponents for not doing enough to prevent alleged election fraud under his watch as the state’s top law enforcement official.
Although the Republican candidate for secretary of state, Jim Marchant, heads into the primary without Trump’s official endorsement, his campaign rhetoric is visibly based on Trumpian priorities. On the trail, Marchant has consistently focused on the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from the former president, and at one point he even claimed that Nevada’s winning candidates had somehow been preselected while voters “haven’t had a choice.”
Nevada’s current secretary of state, Republican Barbara Cegavske, refuted the claims brought forward by members of her own party regarding allegations of election fraud. Cegavske is term-limited and cannot seek reelection this year.
Marchant’s candidacy follows the 2022 pattern of election-denying candidates seeking offices at all levels of government, including positions responsible for overseeing election administration. According to an ongoing analysis conducted by FiveThirtyEight, nearly 60 candidates for House, Senate and statewide offices deny the outcome of the 2020 election.
The TIP with Brittany Shepherd
Another interesting wrinkle in Tuesday’s primary race in South Carolina’s 1st District is the endorsement tug-of-war between conservatives rumored to be vying for the White House in 2024. Rep. Mace has a bench of former Trump-orbit Republicans backing her bid — most prominently Haley, a former U.N. ambassador and South Carolina governor, and former White House Chief of Staff Mulvaney. Mace’s challenger from the right, former state Rep. Katie Arrington, echoed Trump by admonishing Mace as a “terrible” letdown who is “despised by almost everyone.”
In sticking by Mace — who denounced Trump post-Capitol insurrection but has since softened her attacks — Haley has drawn something of a line in the sand in breaking from the de facto leader of her party, even though she’s said she would hold back if Trump threw his hat into the ring for 2024. (Granted, a lot can change from now until then.)
When asked how she fends off Trump’s abuses, Mace told ABC News on Monday afternoon that her slate of establishment endorsements, including from “good friend and mentor” Haley, helped build trust with the voters who delivered her to victory by just 1% in 2020 — flipping the seat from blue to red.
“Endorsements are fantastic, I welcome it. I love having Nikki Haley here, but also it’s up to the candidate to work hard and win and that’s what we’re going to do tomorrow,” Mace said.
An expected win for the incumbent would also be a twist of the knife, of sorts, for Trump, who has been mostly unable to unseat Republican incumbents in the primary season despite his best efforts to the contrary.
ONE MORE THING
Three weeks after one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history, some relatives of students gunned down at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, say they’re hopeful about the federal anti-gun violence proposal announced by a bipartisan group of senators Sunday. But others say they’re dissatisfied with the extent of the proposed legislation and the lack of answers in their community. Amelia Sandoval, whose grandson Xavier Lopez was killed in the attack, told ABC News that she has not been watching news coverage while she processes her grandson’s death. But when briefed on the proposed legislation, she choked up, saying, “Praise God. This is just the beginning, but praise God.” https://abcn.ws/3zvvC9c
NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight
10. That’s the number of key races to watch in Nevada, South Carolina and Texas on Tuesday during primary night (we’re not expecting any close races in Maine or North Dakota). And as FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich and Alex Samuels write, Tuesday will once again be a test for Trump, especially in South Carolina given the two non-incumbent challengers he has backed. Nevada, though, will likely be the most important state of the evening as who advances in the Republican primary for both the Senate and governorship could have big ramifications come November. Three of Nevada’s House races should be competitive, too. Read more from Nathaniel and Alex on the key races to watch on Tuesday — including Texas’s special election for a House seat! — and be sure to follow along at FiveThirtyEight’s live blog.
ABC News’ “Start Here” Podcast. “Start Here” begins Tuesday morning with new revelations from the second public Jan. 6 hearing this month. ABC’s Jonathan Karl leads us off. Then, ABC’s Deirdre Bolton breaks down why Wall Street is stumbling into bear market territory. And ABC’s Claire Bower reports on the story of a missing British journalist and an indigenous expert in a remote region of the Amazon rainforest. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
- President Joe Biden will depart the White House at 8:10 a.m. ET on Tuesday en route to Philadelphia, where he’ll arrive at 9:15 a.m. ET
- Biden will deliver remarks at 11 a.m. ET on the economy at the 29th AFL-CIO Quadrennial Constitutional Convention.
- Biden will depart Philly at 12:25 p.m. ET and arrive back at the White House at 1:30 p.m. ET.
- Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will gaggle aboard Air Force One en route Philadelphia.
- At 10 a.m. ET, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on “to examine protecting our democracy’s frontline workers.”
- At 10:30 a.m. ET, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on “Protecting America’s Consumers: Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen Data Privacy and Security”
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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day’s top stories in politics. Please check back on Wednesday for the latest.