GOP impeachment supporters are fighting for their own political survival after the loss of Tom Rice
While Upton’s comments were meant to boost Rice’s morale, they also serve as a reality check for the remaining pro-impeachment Republicans in the House who are fighting for survival in competitive primaries: support Trump’s impeachment — and continuing to forcefully and publicly rebuke the former president, as Rice did — is politically perilous in today’s GOP.
“You impeach King Ultra MAGA, you get the boot,” said incendiary Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, a Trump ally and a vocal supporter of attempts to nullify the 2020 election.
Now, in hopes of stemming the bleeding, these Remainer Republicans are trying to discern what lessons, if any, can be learned from Rice’s demoralizing, if not somewhat expected, loss.
There could be at least one bright spot for the group: California Rep. David Valadao, who voted to impeach Trump but has kept his head down ever since, appears to have edged out a far-right challenger for a spot in the general election as counting from the state’s first two primaries on June 7 continues. But Valadao hasn’t had to compete with anyone endorsed by Trump, and his district is far less conservative than Rice’s dark red seat in northeastern South Carolina.
“We have totally different types of constituencies, we have totally different types of electoral processes,” Valadao said. “Everyone handles their situation differently.”
“We’ll see when those primaries are over. But I think there will be some of the 10 standing,” he said.
Yet between Rice and Valadao there is a growing consensus that the key to survival after crossing paths with Trump is to silence public criticism and focus on hyperlocal issues.
“If I was (Rice), I would have discussed the issues,” said Rep. Joe Wilson, another Republican from South Carolina. “He and Trump actually agreed on the issues. The best that could have been done was to focus on the issues.”
Impeachment Republicans who continue to face major challenges later this summer appear to be heeding that exact advice, reluctant to center their campaigns on an anti-Trump playbook.
Rep. Dan Newhouse, who represents Washington state, told CNN, “We’ve put together a strategy focused on the issues that matter most to my constituents.
Freshman Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan said he’s aware of the results from other races, but wouldn’t comment on how it affects his own campaign strategy.
“Every district is different, every challenger is different, so I’m not going to get into campaign strategy. But we’re very mindful of what we’ve seen in other races,” he told CNN.
Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, another Washington state lawmaker who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection, nearly became a witness in the Senate trial after revealing what the leader of House Minority Kevin McCarthy told him about his private conversation with Trump as a crowd was storming the United States Capitol. But since then, she has mostly avoided the national limelight and any speeches from Trump, opting to focus on local issues again.
Asked if she feared Rice’s primary loss was a harbinger for her own race, Herrera Beutler told CNN, “I feel good.”
Rice did not return a request for comment and he was not on Capitol Hill after his first loss. He did, however, turn to a familiar face to act as his proxy for the floor votes: Meijer.
A notable exception to the strategy of keeping their heads down among impeachment Republicans is Wyoming Rep. Liz. Cheney, who hasn’t thrown a punch since voting to impeach Trump last year. His continued public criticism of Trump’s election lies cost Cheney his spot as House GOP leader. And she took on a leadership role on the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, serving as vice president alongside Speaker Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi.
In contrast, most of the other 10 impeachments kept the select committee at bay. Cheney and incumbent Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who also sits on the panel, were the only Republicans to back the creation of the select committee. And most of them have remained relatively quiet about the slew of damning revelations about Trump’s attempts to stay in power that have come out during the panel’s series of public hearings.
Still, Trump and his allies seized on Rice’s primary defeat as a sign of momentum for the MAGA wing.
“The same will happen in Wyoming to Virginia ‘resident’ Liz Cheney, what happened in South Carolina to Congressman ‘Impeach Master’ Tom Rice, who lost as a starter by 28 runs!” Trump posted on social media last week.
Another recent example of walking a Trump tightrope is freshman Rep. Nancy Mace. In a bit of split-screen from Rice, Mace, also a Republican from South Carolina, pushed back against a senior Trump-endorsed opponent after he angered Trump for strongly condemning his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. , although Mace did not vote for impeachment. .
Throughout his campaign, Mace highlighted his conservative electoral record, his support for Trump’s policies and the endorsements of other high-profile Republicans such as former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. Mace even filmed a video outside Trump Tower in New York, calling herself one of “Trump’s first supporters.” While other impeachment Republicans haven’t gone that far, Mace has shown the political benefits of softening his criticism of Trump in a competitive Republican primary.
However, lawmakers warn that every district and race is different. And, unlike Rice, the GOP leadership has been looking for ways to boost Meijer and Herrera Beutler, who represent swing districts that could affect GOP efforts to regain a majority in the House. Yet even with party leaders on their side, their victories are hardly guaranteed.
“You have to work hard,” Upton said. “And the others, I mean, they work really hard.”
This story has been updated with additional reaction.
CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.