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Your SC politics briefing

Good morning, and welcome to your weekly South Carolina politics briefing, a newsletter curated by The State’s politics and government team.

Tomorrow marks a big day, and potential turning point, for former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as she faces off with former President Donald Trump in the First in the South Republican primary.

Despite polls suggesting her odds of defeating Trump are slim, she maintains she’ll continue pushing for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination regardless of results in South Carolina on Saturday.

“I feel no need to kiss the ring,” Haley told supporters Tuesday at a rally in Greenville.” And I have no fear of Trump’s retribution. I’m not looking for anything from him. My own political future is of zero concern.”

Ahead of tomorrow’s much anticipated contest, a recent Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll shows Haley trailing Trump by 28 points. This comes as Haley has already suffered defeats in Iowa and New Hampshire.

She, however, appears undeterred.

The American people “see the same polls as me,” Haley said Tuesday. “But more importantly, they have the same belief as me. They believe in America. They believe America can do so much better -- that we must do better. And they know when the country’s future is on the line, you don’t drop out. You keep fighting. In fact, you fight harder than ever.”

Trump also made an appeal to voters in South Carolina on Tuesday during a Town Hall hosted by Fox News.

“Everybody knows you’re not supposed to lose in your home state, shouldn’t happen anyway, and she’s losing it bigly,” Trump said of Haley during the event.

Although between 400-500 people were in attendance, only three audience members at the Trump town hall asked questions. Still, audience members appeared generally satisfied with the former president’s responses, although some felt he didn’t fully answer some of the questions, or care about some of the topics raised.

Trump was asked about the country’s divide, and assuring independent and undecided voters that his focus as president would be improving the state of the country, and not “settling old scores,” by a woman from the audience.

Trump’s response included, “I did it before,” and “we had a great four years.”

Polls in South Carolina will open tomorrow from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Results are expected to roll shortly after polls close.

(Photo via The Sun News’ Jason Lee)

Former U.S. President Donald Trump appeared on Saturday afternoon for a “Get out the Vote” rally at the HTC Center at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C. where he spoke for over and hour and a half. The HTC center held 3,000 supporters but Trump spoke to an “overflow” crowd lined up outside at his arrival. Saturday, February 10, 2024. Feb. 10, 2024.

2024 Bites

New York Times: Why Black Democrats Are Unlikely to Aid Haley in South Carolina

Washington Post: Haley’s nearly all-White high school lacked lessons of racism, some say

Washington Post: Haley looks beyond Saturday’s GOP primary in South Carolina

The State: A family affair: Nikki Haley’s kids step up for mom’s presidential bid before SC primary

Wall Street Journal: How Tim Scott Went From ‘Faith in America’ to Leading Role in Trumpworld

The AP: Trump faces warning signs that his fundraising prowess may have limits in 2024 campaign

Buzz bites

Gov. Henry McMaster, a former state GOP party chairman, said he sees no need to close the primaries despite calls from within the state Republican Party.

House budget writers want to spend $230 million more on state aid to classrooms, which pays for teacher salaries, a move that would increase the state starting teacher salary by $4,500.

2024 candidates Haley and Trump never debated each other. Do voters care?

In a troubling trend that has caught the attention of business owners and lawmakers alike, South Carolina is witnessing a wave of hospitality businesses shuttering their operations due to exorbitant liquor liability insurance premiums.

Mark your calendar

Feb. 24

S.C. GOP Presidential Primary

March 11-14

House budget debate

April 2

State House District 109 special election

April 9-11

Senate Finance Committee budget deliberations

April 16

Annual legislative softball game at Founders Park

April 23-25

Senate budget debate

Before we adjourn

We know the 2024 South Carolina Republican Presidential Primary is Saturday, but it’s never too soon to start talking about 2028. (OK, we know, it is too soon).

But whenever elected officials from other states show up in the early primary state of South Carolina, eyebrows are raised about whether they’re planning, or at least unofficially exploring, a future White House run.

Leading up to the Democratic Presidential primary California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Congressman Ro Khanna came to the state to campaign for President Joe Biden, but also made people wonder about potential 2028 ambitions.

And then there was Tuesday, when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis came to the State House to meet with lawmakers to talk about his push for congressional term limits.

DeSantis’ official office publicized his visit to the media about four-and-a-half hours before his arrival to ensure local media and national media embeds were present.

Before holding a media availability, DeSantis met with a handful of Republican lawmakers including State Sens. Rex Rice, Tom Corbin, Danny Verdin, Shane Massey, Wes Climer, Dwight Loftis and Sean Bennett, and state Rep. Micah Caskey to discuss the need for congressional term limits.

DeSantis, who also was in Indiana Tuesday, denied any connection to keeping connections in place for a potential 2028 White House run after dropping out of this year’s race in January.

“When I was running, I said, I would use the bully pulpit to help do this. Well, now that we’re here where we are, I’ve told folks that are supportive of the term limits movement, put me in,” DeSantis told reporters. “If there’s a way I can be helpful, if it’s me going and speaking to different folks throughout the country that are in state legislative chambers. I’m happy to do it.”

Of course we’re naturally curious about anyone who shows up and what they might be up to.

(Photo via The State’s Joseph Bustos)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at in the Gressette office building in Columbia, S.C. alongside state Sen. Rex Rice, R-Pickens, on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at in the Gressette office building in Columbia, S.C. alongside state Sen. Rex Rice, R-Pickens, on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024.

Pulling the newsletter together this week was Javon L. Harris, a reporter on The State’s politics and state government team. You can keep up with him on Twitter and send him tips on Twitter at @JavonLHarris_JD or by email at jaharris@thestate.com.

To stay on top of South Carolina politics and election news, you can chat with us on Facebook, email us tips and follow our stories at scpolitics.com.