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Haley hits the stump, Trump posts online in final days of SC's 1st District GOP primary

Election 2022 House South Carolina

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (left) cheers alongside U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace during a campaign rally Sunday, June 12, 2022, in Summerville ahead of the state's GOP primary elections Tuesday. Meg Kinnard/AP

SUMMERVILLE — Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley stepped deeper into a contentious South Carolina congressional primary this weekend, urging her fellow Republicans to vote for U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace over the GOP challenger backed by Haley's old boss.

Haley, who couldn't escape chants of "President Haley" as she wrapped up her public appearance, rallied with Mace on June 12 at Hall's Chophouse in Nexton, where the former South Carolina governor told a crowd of at least 100 people that "primaries matter" and that "there is nothing more important" than what happens in this year's 2022 midterm elections.

"As I'm going across the country trying to help candidates get elected, there's something special about being able to do it in my home state," said Haley, who lives on Kiawah Island and is a 1st Congressional District voter.

She exchanged knowing smiles with Mace throughout her 10-minute speech, which ended with Haley calling Mace, "the one that will never disappoint you." Haley took no questions from the media.

As Haley left the event, a man told her, "When you run for president, I'm voting for you."

"Let's elect Nancy first," she replied.

Haley's in-person push during the last weekend before the June 14 primary election stood in stark contrast to how former President Donald Trump sought to put his final stamp on the race by rallying his base online in a social media post against Mace.

While the GOP contest is explicitly a race between Mace and former state lawmaker Katie Arrington, the political battle in the Lowcountry is also seen as a proxy war between Trump and Haley, who are both reportedly weighing 2024 presidential bids and would need to curry favor in South Carolina, an influential early presidential primary state.

Haley has endorsed Mace in the contest, while Trump has thrown his support behind Arrington. 

As Haley hit the stump for Mace, about 5 miles away, Arrington was phone-banking with friends and volunteers at the dining room table in her Summerville home.

Arrington's campaign brushed off Haley's appearance for Mace, saying Arrington has something more valuable than high-profile surrogates

"Katie has what Nancy never will: grassroots support," said Arrington's campaign spokesman, Chris D'Anna. "Forty people on a Sunday knocking on doors and making calls to undecided voters for Katie are more valuable than people rallying with Never Trumpers.”

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Mace fired back, "My opponent has nobody."

Unlike Haley, Trump will not be traveling to the Palmetto State for a pre-election rally, which he has done in other primaries this year and had initially promised to do here. Instead, the former president turned to social media.

On June 11, the night before Haley rallied with Mace in Summerville, Trump ramped up his criticism of the freshman House member, who fell out of his public grace after she voted to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election and said Trump's "entire legacy" was wiped out after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. 

In a statement posted to his social media platform, Truth Social, Trump called her "the terrible Nancy Mace, who really let us down."

"Nancy fights Republicans all the time and is not at all nice about it. Frankly, she is despised by almost everyone, and who needs that in Congress, or in the Republican Party?" Trump said.

"Katie Arrington's policies are perfect," Trump continued, calling Arrington "a hard worker" who loves South Carolina. "She has the tremendous backing of almost all who know her — especially when she is compared to Nancy Mace!"

How much the dueling endorsements will matter, though, is unclear.

Karl Anderson, an undecided voter from Summerville, said he decided to attend the Haley-Mace event because he wanted to get more information rather than "more political rhetoric."

"I'm a Trump guy," said 60-year-old Anderson, who wore a red "Let's Go Brandon" ballcap to the event, "but just because he's thrown his support behind Arrington, it in no way ties me into that, you know? Don't get me wrong, I appreciate his opinion, but I'm not going to march lockstep just because he says, and I always did respect the former governor."

Asked if he got any clarity from the event, Anderson shrugged.

He said he's leaning toward Mace, but he's still not 100 percent sure how he's going to vote in the fast-approaching primary.

"I think it's going to be right to the last minute," said Anderson, who added that he "just hates" that he's going be making this decision when he steps into the voting booth.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-998-5404 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.