Trump kicks off campaign with quiet events in New Hampshire, South Carolina

By Gram Slattery and Ted Hesson

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (Reuters) – Former US President Donald Trump took to the campaign trail for the first time on Saturday since announcing his bid to reclaim the White House in 2024. to a slow start.

“I’m angrier and more committed now than I’ve ever been before,” Trump told a small crowd at the New Hampshire Republican Party’s annual rally in Salem before heading to Columbia, South Carolina, to perform alongside his state leadership team.

Unlike the raucous gatherings for thousands of devotees Trump often holds, Saturday’s events were notably muted. In Columbia, Trump spoke to about 200 people at the state capitol building, with Governor Henry McMaster and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina beside him.

Once the undisputed center of gravity in the Republican Party, more and more elected officials have expressed concern about Trump’s ability to beat Democratic President Joe Biden, if he decides to re-enter, as widely expected.

Countless Republicans are considering whether to launch their own bid for the White House, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, widely seen as Trump’s biggest threat. Top Republicans in both states the former president visited — including New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley — are among those weighing their own bids.

There were several notable absentees from South Carolina, including the state party chairman, five Republican U.S. Representatives from the state, and U.S. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, who himself has been put forward as a potential Republican presidential nominee.

Trump tried to address those concerns by telling the crowd that he expected a wave of additional support from South Carolina state and federal lawmakers within days.

Several Republican state lawmakers decided not to attend after not getting assurances from Trump’s team that this would not be considered an endorsement, according to a person with knowledge of the schedule.

William Oden, the Republican Party chairman in Sumter County, South Carolina, said he was a fan of the former president but kept his options open.

“I haven’t made up my mind yet,” Oden said. “We are waiting for everyone to come out. And as I would in business, I don’t make choices until we’ve heard all the candidates.’


At both stops on Saturday, Trump reiterated some of the themes that animated his 2016 campaign, including sharp criticism of illegal immigration and China.

But he also emphasized social issues, perhaps in response to DeSantis, whose relentless focus on culture wars helped build his national profile.

At Columbia, the former president railed against transgender rights and the teaching of critical race theories, a once-obscure academic concept that has led to protests from school administrators and classroom bans in some states.

“We’re going to stop the left-wing radical racists and perverts trying to indoctrinate our youth, and we’re going to take their Marxist hands off our kids,” Trump said.

“We are going to defeat the cult of gender ideology and reaffirm that God created two sexes: men and women. We are not going to allow men to play women’s sports.”

Trump didn’t spend much time on his grievances about the 2020 election, though he alluded to his false claim that the election was stolen from him and called the election “ridiculous.”

Since launching his campaign in November, Trump has kept a relatively low profile. He called several conservative Republicans in the US House of Representatives in early January to persuade them to vote for Kevin McCarthy, an ally, as the new speaker.

Most rejected his pleas, though McCarthy was elected to the position after a blood-curdling battle.

Trump maintains significant support, especially among the grassroots. Although he loses to DeSantis in some head-to-head polls, he wins by significant margins when poll respondents are presented with a wider range of options.

(Reporting by Gram Slattery in Columbia, South Carolina and Ted Hesson in Washington; editing by Ross Colvin, Daniel Wallis, and Cynthia Osterman)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *