Former president Donald Trump is planning a party in South Carolina on Saturday, but he’s having trouble convincing state lawmakers to attend. So far only Sen. Lindsey Graham and S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster are expected to show their support at his upcoming rally.
The Washington Post reports that Trump’s team has been making “pleading phone calls” to other potential supporters across the state, but many are responding with less than enthusiasm. That’s because South Carolina lawmakers are not yet ready to commit to a candidate, especially when two of the state’s Republicans are eyeing potential presidential runs themselves. Both former S.C. governor Nikki Haley and current S.C. Senator Tim Scott are believed to be considering a 2024 campaign. Haley, state operatives tell the paper, is expected to make an announcement in upcoming weeks.
South Carolina’s former state GOP chair Katon Dawon, a Haley supporter, told the Post that it is notable that “Nikki Haley is probably our first South Carolinian since we voted for George Washington that has really had a chance of being president of the United States.” Trump’s campaign will “run into that history,” he added.
Trump may also have trouble shoring up support from evangelicals. In an interview last week, he said he was seeing a “sign of disloyalty” from the religious group. No one “has ever done more for ‘right to life’ than Donald Trump,” he bemoaned. But some evangelical voters in South Carolina were turned off by his comments, Dave Wilson, president of Palmetto Family Council, told the Post. Wilson said “there is more than a little bit of softening” among Trump’s evangelical support in the state. Other evangelicals, he added, may be waiting for more candidates to enter the race before deciding which person they will support.
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One other major obstacle to Trump finding support in South Carolina is the growing excitement about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been positioning himself for a possible White House run. “Right now my constituency is as excited about Ron DeSantis as Donald Trump, if not more,” one S.C. lawmaker said to the Post.
Trump is aware of the threat DeSantis poses. One person close to Trump told Rolling Stone that the former president is planning to “kick” DeSantis “in the nuts.” Whether that will be enough to stave off a DeSantis challenge remains to be seen.