COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Ron DeSantis has picked up 10 endorsements in South Carolina from former backers of Sen. Tim Scott’s presidential campaign, support the Florida governor is hoping can shore up his strength in the first-in-the-South primary state as the 2024 GOP field continues to consolidate.
In a list shared Friday with The Associated Press before its public release, South Carolina state Reps. Bill Taylor and Tom Hartnett Jr. — as well as more than a half-dozen municipal-level elected officials who had backed Scott before he shuttered his bid — are now announcing their support for DeSantis.
“Ron DeSantis is the leader we need for this exact moment,” Hartnett said. “He not only is the only candidate who I know can win, but he will be a president who will follow through on his promises to reverse the decline of our country.”
Both DeSantis and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley are trying to pick up supporters and donors from Scott’s campaign following his surprise departure. DeSantis’ campaign argues it is better positioned than Haley to take on former President Donald Trump in early-primary states including South Carolina, which Haley once led as governor.
The campaign also told AP that DeSantis will be back in the state Dec. 1 for a slew of campaign events, as activity in the state picks up for the first-in-the-South Feb. 24 primary.
He’ll also appear that night at an annual dinner sponsored by The Citadel Republican Society, where DeSantis will receive the Nathan Hale Patriot Award, an honor accompanied by a replica Revolutionary War-era musket previously bestowed on Trump, Haley, Scott, and former Vice President Mike Pence.
With DeSantis’ total of 68 endorsements from elected officials in South Carolina, he has more than have been announced by any other presidential candidate, his campaign said. Taylor and Hartnett were among dozens of officials whose endorsements Scott rolled out in June, a month after launching his candidacy.
DeSantis is now aiming to make inroads in Scott’s home state, given the senator’s abrupt exit from the race on Sunday. During an appearance on the Fox News Channel show of his close friend, former Rep. Trey Gowdy, Scott said that he was suspending his effort after voters made it “really clear that they’re telling me, ‘Not now, Tim.’”
With that announcement — which surprised supporters, donors and even Scott’s own staff — he became the second major candidate to leave the race since last month. Pence suspended his campaign three weeks ago, announcing at a Republican Jewish Coalition gathering in Las Vegas that “This is not my time.”
Scott and the rest of the GOP field have struggled in a race that has been dominated by Trump. Despite four criminal indictments and many other legal challenges, Trump continues to poll far ahead of his rivals, leading many in the party to conclude the race is effectively over, barring some stunning change of fortune.
In South Carolina, that dominance has endured. In January, Trump was endorsed by officials including Gov. Henry McMaster, Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette, Sen. Lindsey Graham and several members of the U.S. House delegation. He’s also backed by the state House speaker and a number of other legislative leaders.
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP