Rep. Nancy Mace is a first.
In 1999, she was the first female cadet to graduate from the Citadel.
In 2020, she was the first Republican congresswoman elected in South Carolina.
And, today, she’ll be the first to tell you her party needs to think long and hard about the next election season.
“2024 might be a rude awakening,” Mace told The Post. “We haven’t won the popular vote in years. And it’s not beyond our reach if we would just espouse a little common sense, show some compassion and show that we care.”
Mace, 45, has fashioned herself as “the new voice for the Republican Party.”
Since assuming office in 2021, she has broken with hard-line party orthodoxy in favor of more moderate stances on issues like abortion and gun safety.
“We have to address these sensitive issues head on,” she said. “We can’t be afraid to talk about them, and we have to have solutions.”
Those sorts of comments have made her the subject of media fascination and even recently earned her the title of “mainstream Republican in the hard-right House GOP” from the New York Times.
But Mace, who resolutely describes herself as a conservative and a small-L libertarian, told The Post she’s merely representing her constituency by “marching to her own drum.”
South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District has long been purple. In 2020, Mace narrowly beat Democratic incumbent Joe Cunningham by 5,000 votes.
Mace said that means being her district’s voice in Congress sometimes requires defying party lines.
“I get demands and pressure from all sides — independents, Republicans and Democrats,” she said. “So I’ve been a caucus of one, because I’ve always advocated on issues that are really important to my state … Sometimes that means I’m on the opposite side of my colleagues in my party.”
In 2019, Mace, then a state representative, made headlines for challenging her party when South Carolina became the first state to float a fetal heartbeat abortion restriction without exception for rape and incest.
The representative, who describes herself as “pro-life and pro-woman,” came forward as a victim of sexual assault on the legislature floor and successfully demanded those carveouts be written in.
“It was super controversial at the time,” she said. “Everyone looked at me like I had three horns on my head. But it’s very much where 80% of the country is.”
It’s those sorts of common sense, compassionate positions that allowed Mace to win over her purple district: “Being able to show how we can be pro-life and pro-woman and get respect from people across the board regardless of political affiliation is extremely important to me as a lawmaker.”
She says these sorts of compromises are what will bring more people over to the GOP’s side — and that failing to make them could cost elections.
“Why can’t you say you’re for birth control and you’re for life? Like, why is that so difficult? If we could just say that we would have won twice as many seats as we did in November,” Mace added.
Similarly, she doesn’t see her pro-gun stance as being at odds with being pro-safety.
“I have lots of ideas to reduce gun violence,” she said. “But we can’t even talk about that as a party right now.”
Mace supports reforms like requiring criminal databases used for background checks to be up to date and issuing Amber Alerts for active shooters — especially after she and her children didn’t even realize they were a mile away from a mass shooting just a month ago.
“I want to protect the right to bear arms. I want to protect the Second Amendment,” she said. “And the best way we can do that is by reducing gun violence in this country.”
But Mace said that many Republicans “want to bury their heads in the sand and ignore the problem.”
“I literally feel like I’m the only one talking about any of this, and it’s deeply frustrating to me,” the congresswoman warned. “That’s a losing formula for ’24.”
Representative Mace said her own re-election in 2022 is proof that her vision for the future of the GOP is a roadmap to success.
Even in her purple district, Mace managed to increase her 5,000-vote margin in 2020 to nearly 38,000 last year.
“Our results spoke for themselves in November,” she told The Post. “We were not supposed to win by that much, but we did because we had the right policies, the right tone, the right message and the right kind of compassion.”
As both major parties hemorrhage disaffected independent voters, Mace said the GOP needs to turn its attention towards typical Americans who are craving reasonable leadership.
“I’m yelling and screaming from the rooftops that this is happening, and that we need to speak to these voices, but nobody is,” Mace added.
“What I’m trying to do is keep my arms wide open and my eyes wide open and show a road map to winning a majority, and keeping that majority — and to winning over moderates, centrists, independents, Libertarians, conservatives and maybe even a few Democrats, too.”
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