- Donald Trump begins 2024 campaign tour in South Carolina with leadership team reveal.
- Conservative voices in South Carolina uncertain in support for Trump.
- Other Republicans considering presidential runs, distancing from Trump.
Donald Trump, former US President, is beginning his first campaign tour of the 2024 presidential cycle on Saturday where he is likely to reveal his leadership team from South Carolina. He is seeking the White House for the third time. However, his appearance is accompanied by some conservative voices in the state claiming their support for Trump is not yet set in stone.
The event will be hosted by South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster who has endorsed Trump and Senator Lindsey Graham, who is expected to endorse Trump on Saturday. It is not yet clear who will accompany Trump on stage in Columbia. According to The Washington Post, Trump's advisors have been "pleading" with South Carolina Republican officials over the phone in recent weeks to gain endorsements and attendees.
Dave Wilson, President of the Palmetto Family Council, an evangelical group, stated in an interview with ABC News, "there is some reserve because everyone knows what Donald Trump is going to come in and say: rewind, press play, change your city name, and you're going to hear the same thing." He added that many conservative voters are looking at other options before deciding whether to support Trump again.
Trump is also scheduled to speak at the New Hampshire Republican Party's annual meeting in Salem on Saturday morning before heading to South Carolina, suggesting that his campaign is gearing up. His visit could also be perceived as a warning to New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, who is rumored to be considering a presidential run in 2024. Sununu's office stated that he has not made plans to attend the annual meeting this year.
The Trump campaign did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.
Trump and his allies' efforts to gain support in South Carolina come amidst a potentially competitive nomination process, with former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Senator Tim Scott also considering presidential runs. Neither have confirmed their plans, but Haley is expected to announce soon while Scott has not ruled it out.
According to Kirk Randazzo, a political science professor at the University of South Carolina, Trump is hoping a strong showing this weekend will discourage Haley and Scott from running. However, Randazzo stated that besides Senator Graham and Governor McMaster, there are not many notable individuals joining Trump on stage this weekend.
Randazzo also stated that Republicans are increasingly distancing themselves from Trump and looking for alternative candidates who can champion MAGA policies without the negative baggage associated with Trump, citing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as an example. He added that several Republicans have lost elections in the last two or three years due to Trump and the candidates he endorsed, combined with his blunt personality and behavior, and this is causing some to consider distancing themselves from him.
South Carolina Republican Party Chair Drew McKissick is not expected to attend the Saturday event due to RNC meetings in California. Rep. Ralph Norman, a close ally of Trump, is not expected to attend the campaign event due to a scheduling conflict, according to his office.
Wilson noted that several members of the South Carolina General Assembly have privately told him that they will not be attending Trump's event on Saturday. He added that core conservatives are looking for a candidate who can go beyond the next four years and become a standard-bearer for the next eight years. He emphasized the significance of South Carolina's role as the first-in-the-south primary, stating that the state takes it very seriously and expects candidates to engage with the public.