Trump-backed Nancy Mace who fought to keep her South Carolina congressional seat in the Republican party primaries

Voters in the Republican primary for South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District will go to the polls Tuesday to decide the political future of controversial college sophomore, Republican Rep. Nancy Mace.

For the second consecutive cycle, the South Carolina representative — who has made headlines for attacking the Republican Party against abortion and at one point against former President Donald Trump — faces a fierce primary challenge, with support from key figures in her own side. Now the former Trump critic has the former president’s support in the race.

In her 2022 bid, Trump endorsed Mace’s challenger, calling Mace a “terrible person” who is “despised by almost everyone.”

At the same time, other major Republicans closed ranks around Mace. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley endorsed Mace, and PACs tied to senior Republican leaders, including then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, sent her financial support.

Now, in a sign of the ever-changing politics of the divided Republican Party, it’s the exact opposite: Trump has endorsed Mace, and McCarthy, who was ousted as speaker with Mace’s help, has supported her opponent and campaigned vigorously against her .

Mace also broke off her relationship with Haley and chose to support Trump during the state’s presidential primaries, in a stunning twist. Speaker Mike Johnson issued a brief statement endorsing Mace in April and appeared alongside her at an event in May.

Mace’s own comments about Trump have changed over the years. Just one day after the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, Mace said Trump’s “entire legacy” had been “wiped away” by the siege. Earlier this year, however, Mace said: “Donald Trump is the only man who can save America.”

This hotly contested congressional race in South Carolina shows the delicate balancing act that many Republicans in more moderate districts must perform in the age of Trump, trying to demonstrate their loyalty to the party kingmaker while avoiding being labeled an extremist.

While the former president enjoys strong support in South Carolina, it is unclear whether his support will help or hurt Mace. During the presidential primaries in February, Haley defeated Trump by six points in the 1st Congressional District – the most moderate district in the state.

Despite Trump’s support for Mace, her main opponent — Catherine Templeton, the state’s former director of labor, licensing and regulation — has defied calls to join the former president’s support by dropping out of the race.

While Mace and Templeton agree on immigration and inflation—pillars of both campaigns—they contrast sharply on abortion, an issue that has become salient in red-state politics since the Supreme Court ruled Roe v. Wade in June 2022. , returning the case to the states.

Mace has often spoken about her experiences as a rape survivor, occasionally castigating her party for advancing harsh restrictions. Although Mace opposes abortion, she has advocated for exceptions for rape and incest, as well as access to contraception.

Trump said in April that abortion should be decided by the states. He has not said whether he personally supports a certain number of weeks of pregnancy after which the state-level ban should go into effect, although he has publicly criticized a six-week ban in Florida and recently discussed privately idea of ​​a national ban. A 16-week ban, with exceptions, sources told ABC News in February.

Meanwhile, during a failed bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2018, Templeton reversed her opposition to a near-total state abortion ban that included no exception for victims of incest, following pressure from anti-abortion advocates.

Still, Templeton has portrayed herself as the stronger conservative, echoing criticism of her opponent for her flip-flops on Trump, abortion and other issues.

“We need a consistent conservative in Congress,” she said about Mace at an event last month.

Tuesday evening’s elections may not produce an immediate winner. In the competitive race, it is possible that no candidate will win a majority, which would send the primaries to a runoff.

Although Bill Young, a veteran who is also challenging Mace for the nomination, is well behind Templeton, if the margins are slim he could prevent both front-runners from getting more than 50%.

Another potential spoiler came at the eleventh hour last week, when the Washington Post broke allegations that Mace had overused a program that allows members of Congress to reimburse some of their living expenses. The New York Times has since reported that the House Ethics Committee has begun a preliminary investigation into her conduct.

ABC News’ Brittany Shepherd contributed reporting.