Florence, South Carolina was the home of one of the worst prisoner of war camps during the American Civil War. America prisoners were treated inhumanly and thousands died. Last night Trump held a rally there, though it is a constituency that Trump barely won (50.6%). The incumbent congressman, conservative Republican Tom Rice, did significantly better than TRump did in Florence County-- 54.6%. There's nothing that Trump hates more than when Republicans outpoll him. During his rally at the airport last night he said "Unfortunately for the patriots of South Carolina, you currently have two atrocious RINOs. They're bad people in the house who went to Washington, sold you out, and partnered with the Democrats to stab the Republican part, and frankly, to stab our country in the back. Right here in the 7th Congressional District, Tom Rice, a disaster. He's respected by no one, he's laughed at in Washington, he was never thought highly of in Washington. And he was just censured by your great South Carolina GOP. Tom Rice joined the Democrats' deranged impeachment witch hunt, it's hoax, it's all turned out to be a hoax. Now Tom Rice looks like a total fool." The other member Trump attacked was Nancy Mace, who didn't vote to impeach him but is in Trump's crosshairs because she's been fighting with Trump toadie, Marjorie Traitor Greene.
Rice responded with a statement: "Trump is here because, like no one else I've ever met, he is consumed by spite. I took one vote he didn’t like and now he’s chosen to support a yes man candidate who has and will bow to anything he says, no matter what. If you want a Congressman who supports political violence in Ukraine or in the United States Capitol, who supports party over country, who supports a would-be tyrant over the Constitution, and who makes decisions based solely on re-election, then Russell Fry is your candidate. If you want a Congressman who cowers to no man, who votes for what is right, even when it's hard, and who has fought like hell for the Grand Strand and Pee Dee, then I hope to earn your vote."
Note how Rice referred to his Trump-endorsed opponent, Russell Fry, as someone "who supports political violence in Ukraine." Rice isn't the only Republican tarring his Trump-wing opponent as a Putin-lackey. This morning, Reuters' David Morgan reported that support for Putin has become a cudgel in GOP primaries. "The war in Ukraine," he wrote, "has opened a new front in the U.S. Republican Party's civil war, with party primary candidates vying to run in the November midterm elections attacking each other for past comments praising Russian President Vladimir Putin... Republican candidates have been put on the defensive over comments describing Putin as intelligent, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as a 'thug' and Ukraine as not worth defending. They now face criticism at a time when U.S. public opinion strongly supports Ukraine and its president."
Pat McCrory, a leading Republican Senate candidate in North Carolina's May 17 primary election, lashed out this week at his Trump-backed Republican rival, Representative Ted Budd, in his first TV ad.
"While Ukrainians bled and died ... Congressman Budd excused their killer," McCrory says in the ad, which is interspersed with video clips from a TV interview showing Budd describing Putin as "a very intelligent actor" with "strategic reasons" for the invasion.
The ad also accused Budd, who has described Putin as "evil," of casting votes "friendly" to Russia.
Budd's campaign dismissed the McCrory ad in a statement, saying, "Ted Budd presented the sort of level-headed assessment of a foreign crisis you would expect from a U.S. Senator because he knows these are serious times that require strength and substance, not the empty soundbites."
Before Russian forces moved on Ukraine on Feb. 24, some Republicans felt comfortable echoing former President Donald Trump's praise for Putin as a strong leader, while denouncing U.S. policy toward Moscow.
Even after the invasion, two Trump allies in the House-- Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar-- participated in a white nationalist conference at which participants applauded Russia's move on Ukraine and chanted Putin's name.
Infighting over Putin and Ukraine has exacerbated existing divisions within the party over Trump's false claims of widespread election fraud in 2020, and a House investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by the former president's supporters.
Trump has been widely criticized for describing Putin's actions toward Ukraine as "genius" and "pretty savvy" in a Feb. 22 interview.
Also in North Carolina, Representative Madison Cawthorn came under fire from his Republican rivals over remarks at a town hall in which he criticized Zelenskiy and Ukraine.
"Remember that Zelenskiy is a thug. Remember the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt and is incredibly evil and has been pushing woke ideologies," Cawthorn said in a video clip aired by WRAL-TV in Raleigh.
"ITS INCOMPREHENSIBLE THAT A MEMBER OF CONGRESS WOULD CALL UKRAINES PRESIDENT A THUG!" tweeted Michele Woodhouse, who is challenging Cawthorn in the Republican primary.
Cawthorn's office did not respond to a Reuters query seeking comment.
The Republicans are vying to become candidates at the November midterm elections in which control of the U.S. Congress is at stake.
In Utah, independent Senate candidate Evan McMullin, a former CIA officer, attacked Republican Senator Mike Lee in an ad accusing the two-term incumbent of "making us weak and unsafe" in the midst of the current Ukraine crisis by opposing sanctions against Russia and visiting Moscow.
I wonder how he missed Wisconsin crackpot Ron Johnson, one of Putin's stringiest allies in the Senate. Maybe it's because he didn't want to get into what Democrats are going to be able to do to Putin-loving incumbents like Johnson in the general election. Reports like this-- in Wisconsin's biggest newspaper-- aren't going to help Johnson, who is desperately trying to change his pro-Putin tune: "Former national security aide Alexander Vindman accused Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and others of having 'blood on their hands' as Ukraine withstands a withering assault from Russian troops. In an interview with the Journal Sentinel, Vindman included Johnson on a list with former President Donald Trump, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Fox News host Tucker Carlson, claiming they undermined U.S. national security. 'Civilians are dying, Ukrainians are providing a formidable defense, defending democracy for Americans as well as for themselves and their homes. And Ron Johnson is trying to distract and obfuscate,' Vindman said."