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Guess who showed up in South Carolina four days before the GOP primary there? Ron DeSantis

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Guess who showed up in South Carolina four days before the GOP primary there? Ron DeSantis

Feb 20, 2024 | 7:30 pm ET
By Michael Moline
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Guess who showed up in South Carolina four days before the GOP primary there? Ron DeSantis
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Gov. Ron DeSantis appeared in the South Carolina Capitol on Feb. 20, 2022, alongside South Carolina South Carolina state Sen. Rex Rice, to promote a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on Congress. Source: Screenshot/DeSantis Rumble

Gov. Ron DeSantis put his campaign for president on hold weeks ago, but there he was Tuesday in the South Carolina Capitol, four days before that state’s Republican primary, denying his appearance had anything to do with the impending voting.

Guess who showed up in South Carolina four days before the GOP primary there? Ron DeSantis
South Carolina State House. Wikipedia, Christmas 2006, Brandon Davis

This while the Florida Legislature was a little more than two weeks away from the scheduled end of its regular session on March 8, with bills including the next state budget still up in the air.

What gives?

The governor insisted during a news conference in a Capitol hallway that he was there to promote amending the U.S. Constitution to impose term limits on members of Congress — a cause DeSantis is also promoting in Florida (plus amendments on balanced budget and a presidential line-item veto).

DeSantis aides publicized the appearance by email as part of his official duties. A subsequent email said he was acting at the behest of U.S. Term Limits, which is agitating for a constitutional convention on that topic, and that he’d earlier promoted the cause in Indiana.

But DeSantis had plenty to say during a news conference in South Carolina about the candidates remaining in the GOP primary: Donald Trump and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

The governor, who endorsed Trump after suspending his own campaign, at first declined to be drawn into the contest between Trump and Haley. “I’m not following the back and forth,” DeSantis said.

But he did criticize the latter for appealing to Democratic voters, who are allowed to vote in the Republican primary in South Carolina. “That is just not a successful formula to win a Republican primary, but especially against basically an incumbent or former president of the United States.”

DeSantis argued that continuing the contest could waste party resources.

‘Broke’

“The RNC is basically broke. We need to get our act together and start focusing on having the resources we need to carry a message against Biden, to turn out voters, and we have to have processes in place where we are going to utilize whatever rules in an individual state are there,” he said.

“If you have a path, you have every right to be running,” DeSantis said. “But if the path isn’t there, then I think at what point is the purpose of this.”

His own reading of the race following his second-place finish in Iowa convinced DeSantis that “there was no question for me that what was going to happen in New Hampshire was what would happen, and it did, and there was no question that South Carolina is going to be a big victory for Donald Trump, because he appeals to core Republicans in a way that Nikki Haley does not or is not trying to.”

DeSantis didn’t have much to say about Trump’s plan to install his daughter in law, Lara Trump, as co-chair of the Republican National Committee along with North Carolina GOP operative Michael Whaley. But he pointed to a long string of election losses since Donald Trump has led the party.

“When you lose election cycle after election cycle, at some point you gotta try something different,” DeSantis said.