IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Two S.C. House primaries show just how far Republicans can go in criticizing Trump

First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
Nancy Mace and Tom Rice.
Nancy Mace and Tom Rice.Meg Kinnard/AP ; Alex Brandon/AP

WASHINGTON —  If it’s Wednesday ... Donald Trump goes 1 for 2 in the South Carolina primaries. ... Adam Laxalt, Joe Lombardo win GOP nominations in Nevada, setting up key general-election clashes for Senate and governor. ... Republicans flip Texas-34 seat, adding to Democratic struggles in South Texas. ... The Daily Beast reports on Herschel Walker’s “secret son” in Georgia Senate. ... And a new poll shows John Fetterman up 9 points over Mehmet Oz in PA-SEN. 

But first: It’s time to re-tell the ballad of Nancy Mace. 

Back in February, we wrote how Mace voted to certify the Electoral College results after coming to Congress; how she criticized Trump for Jan. 6; how she voted against Trump’s impeachment, preferring censure instead; how she then voted against the investigations looking into Jan. 6; and finally how she taped a video outside of Trump Tower — like she was John Cusack holding up his boom box in “Say Anything” — recounting her support for Trump.

Well, Mace won her primary against Trump-backed Katie Arrington in the GOP’s SC-1 primary, 53 percent to 45 percent. 

“My message [to Trump] is the same to him as it is to anybody else on either side of the aisle. I am willing to work with anyone who is willing to work with me. Full stop,” she told NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard when he asked Mace what her victory’s message was to the former president. 

Contrast Mace’ victory to last night’s loss by Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C., who voted to impeach Trump — and who continued to defend that vote. 

“The Constitution is the source of our freedom and our prosperity,” Rice told Hillyard. “I don’t want Donald Trump or anybody else to rip it to shreds.”

You can ignore Trump’s pleas to overturn an election (see Brian Kemp). You can criticize his behavior (like Mace did). But you cannot be a hostile opponent — or appear to be one. 

That’s the lesson from Mace’s win and Rice’s loss. 

And in addition to geography (the difference between Mace’s Charleston-area voters vs. Rice’s Myrtle Beach-area voters), there’s another important lesson to Mace’s victory: Trump has gotten penalized from GOP voters — first in Georgia last month, last night in S.C.-01 — where his meddling has ended up costing Republicans in general elections. 

As we pointed out yesterday, Trump supported Arrington in 2018 in his effort to oust then-Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., from Congress. Arrington beat Sanford, but she ended up losing the general to Democrats. 

Data Download: The number of the day is … 10

That’s Democrats’ new margin in the House after losing a special election in Texas’ 34th District to replace former Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela, who resigned to join a lobbying firm. Republican Mayra Flores, a health care worker, won the race Tuesday, avoiding a runoff after winning 51 percent of the vote, per NBC’s Decision Desk. Democratic attorney Dan Sanchez won 43 percent of the vote in this heavily Hispanic district. 

Flores handed Republicans a victory in a district that Biden carried by 4 percentage points in 2020. She is also running in the general election in the newly drawn 34th District, which is significantly more Democratic, where she’ll face Democratic Rep. Vincente Gonzalez. Had the new lines been in place in 2020, Biden would have won the district by 16 points.  

When Flores gets sworn in, the House will stand at 220 Democrats, 210 Republicans and five vacancies. 

Other numbers to know:

5: The number of consecutive days that the S&P 500 has fallen, ahead of the conclusion of the Fed’s meeting on Wednesday.

9 points: That’s Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s lead over Republican Mehmet Oz in a new Suffolk/USA Today poll of the Pennsylvania Senate race among likely voters, just outside the error margin, 46 percent to 37 percent.

14 percent: The share of undecided, likely voters, in the new WRAL News poll of the North Carolina Senate race, which found Democrat Cheri Beasley ahead of Republican Rep. Ted Budd by 4 points, well within the margin of error.

27: How many Democrats opposed a bill providing security for family members of Supreme Court justices.

1 in 5: The amount of pregnancies that ended in abortion in 2020, according to a report from the Guttmacher Institute, the Associated Press reports.

65 percent: The share of donors who gave to Trump’s PAC since Nov. 2020 who were retired, per a Washington Post analysis.

Tweet the day

Midterm roundup: Last night’s other results

Here’s a look at the results in some of the other races we were watching last night, with the projected winners per NBC’s Decision Desk. 

Nevada Governor: With 79 percent of the vote in, Trump-backed Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo won the Republican primary with 38 percent of the vote. Lombardo will face Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak in November’s general election.

Nevada Senate: Former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who also had Trump’s endorsement, defeated Army veteran Sam Brown in the GOP primary, with 56 percent of the vote to Brown’s 34 percent with 79 percent of precincts reporting. Laxalt will face Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.

South Carolina Governor: Former Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham won the gubernatorial primary with nearly 57 percent of the vote, besting state Rep. Mia McLeod, who was the next highest vote-getter with 31 percent. Cunningham will face GOP Gov. Henry McMaster.

Nevada Secretary of State: With 77 percent of the vote in, former Assemblyman Jim Marchant, an election denier, is the projected winner of the GOP primary, winning 38 percent of the vote. Democrat Cisco Aguilar, a former staffer for the late Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, was unopposed in the Democratic primary. 

Nevada-01: Democratic Rep. Dina Titus easily fended off businesswoman Amy Vilela, who was backed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Titus won 82 percent of the vote to Vilela’s 18 percent, with 72 percent of the vote in, despite Vilela outspending Titus in the race. The Decision Desk has not yet called the GOP primary, so it’s not clear who Titus will face in the fall.

Nevada-02: GOP Rep. Mark Amodei also defeated his primary challenger, perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian, thanks in part to some help from the Congressional Leadership Fund. With 62 percent of the vote in, Amodei was at 54 percent while Tarkanian was at 33 percent.

Nevada-03: GOP attorney April Becker will face Democratic Rep. Susie Lee in this competitive district, winning 65 percent of the vote with 83 percent of precincts reporting. Becker was backed by a slew of prominent Republicans like Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the state Republican Party, and former Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Nevada-04: It’s still not clear who will face Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford in the fall, with Air Force veteran Sam Peters and Assemblywoman Annie Black with 48 and 41 percent of the vote respectively, with 88 percent of precincts reporting.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Michigan Governor: Put Michigan First, a group backed by the Democratic Governors Association, is going up with a new ad that attacks the broad field of candidates who are running against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

New York Governor: New York City Eric Adams is set to endorse Gov. Kathy Hochul, the New York Times reports

Pennsylvania Governor: Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano appeared on a podcast where he agreed with actor and commentator Ben Stein’s comparison between the Jan. 6 attack and the Reichstag fire.  

New York-12: Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren is backing Rep. Jerry Nadler in his primary, where he’s been drawn into the same district as Rep. Carolyn Maloney. 

Wyoming At-Large: The Club for Growth is spending $127,000 on TV as it has come out against Republican Rep. Liz Cheney’s re-election and endorsed her Trump-backed primary challenger, Harriet Hageman. Here’s a look at its new ad

Ad watch: Brooks vs. Britt

Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., and former Senate aide Katie Britt are deep into a primary runoff fight with the race less than one week away. In ads over the last few days, Britt has touted her new endorsement from former President Donald Trump (an endorsement Trump rescinded from Brooks a few months ago) and Brooks has attacked Britt for being too liberal.

“I am honored to be endorsed by President Trump. From day one, I’ve been fighting for his America-First agenda,” Britt says in a new ad out over the weekend.

Meanwhile, a new ad from Brooks blasts Britt for supporting tax hikes and illegal immigration and for having support from Democrats.  

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

NBC News’ Allan Smith and Alex Seitz-Wald dive deep into Ginni Thomas’ anti-cult activism in the 1980s and 1990s and examine how Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife could have been drawn into the Qanon conspiracy.

Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is set to join the White House as the director of the Office of Public Engagement.

Politico reports that Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., gathered major donors to discuss a potential 2024 run for president, telling them he wouldn’t defer to Trump.