Will South Carolina Even Matter?

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley gather for her rally in Greer, South Carolina, on May 4, 2023 (Photo by Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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Up to Speed

  • On Tuesday morning, House Majority Whip Tom Emmer emerged from a crowded field to become the latest Republican nominated by his conference for speaker of the House. The Minnesotan defeated the runner-up, Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, 117-97 on the fifth ballot of the day. Emmer bowed out four hours later, chased from the race first by opposition from staunch conservatives like Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana who said they would oppose the majority whip on the House floor—and then by an unexpected knifing from former President Donald Trump. Just 24 hours earlier, Trump had said he was staying out of the speaker race. But after Emmer’s ascension was imperiled by resistance from Republican members, Trump unloaded on him on social media as “totally out of touch” and a “globalist RINO.” Reconvening Tuesday evening for another few rounds of voting, a fatigued House Republican conference settled on Johnson. A floor vote is expected Wednesday. 
  • Acting in consultation with Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida’s state university system moved Tuesday to ban the organization Students for Justice in Palestine on its campuses, arguing that the group’s public statements—which included calling Hamas’ attack on Israel “a historic win for the Palestinian resistance”—amounted to “support of terrorism.”
  • A third lawyer involved in Donald Trump’s efforts to steal the 2020 election has now admitted to a felony related to those efforts in Georgia. Attorney Jenna Ellis pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one charge of aiding and abetting false statements and writings and has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. As she entered her plea, Ellis argued that the real blame fell on the team’s more senior lawyers, whose false claims she had failed to thoroughly vet. “If I knew then what I know now, I would have declined to represent Donald Trump in these post-election challenges,” Ellis said.
  • Nikki Haley on Tuesday criticized Donald Trump for apparently refusing to pay local law enforcement in New Hampshire for providing security at his campaign events in the state, saying the former president should “fund the police.” According to Raw Story, the Trump campaign owes agencies in Concord and Manchester $3,788 and $12,870, respectively. “It’s ridiculous to stiff law enforcement and ultimately stick taxpayers with the bill,” Haley campaign spokesman Ken Farnaso said in a statement. “Nikki Haley wants to make sure police and their families are paid. Apparently, Donald Trump doesn’t care.” According to the RealClearPolitics polling average, Trump currently leads Haley in New Hampshire 45 percent to 14 percent.
  • Vivek Ramaswamy’s campaign confirmed in a brief email exchange with The Dispatch that the Republican contender is undecided about participating in his party’s next televised presidential debate, scheduled for November 8 in Miami. “Still TBD,” Ramaswamy campaign spokeswoman Tricia McLaughlin said this week.

South Carolina Primary Sidelined

South Carolina Republicans like to think they pick presidents, or at least GOP presidential nominees. Since 1980, the winner of the Palmetto State’s Republican presidential primary has captured the nomination in every open race but one: 2012. But this year, the state’s contest may become an afterthought.

Former President Donald Trump’s healthy polling lead—both nationally and in South Carolina—may be one reason why.

“President Trump remains a strong favorite in South Carolina,” Rob Godfrey, a Republican strategist in South Carolina who is neutral in the primary, told The Dispatch. “He has consolidated support among insiders and outsiders, when it comes to the party apparatus, and every candidate has their work cut out for them to dislodge supporters from him.”

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