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State of the race: Trump, Haley, DeSantis push to pick up support from Scott’s donors, endorsers

In the nearly three weeks since Sen. Tim Scott suspended his campaign for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, there’s been a push by some of the remaining GOP White House hopefuls to land the senator from South Carolina’s endorsement.

Scott was pretty clear as he ended his 2024 presidential bid that he had no immediate plans to support another candidate.

‘The best way for me to be helpful is to not weigh in,’ he said in a live interview on Nov. 13 on Fox News’ ‘Sunday Night in America with Trey Gowdy.’

But a source familiar with Scott’s thinking told Fox News that the senator’s been approached for an endorsement from some of his former rivals.

The source added that Scott remains open to backing a candidate but that any potential endorsement would not happen until after the start of the new year.

Meanwhile, there’s no letup in the race to secure the senator’s top dollar donors and GOP lawmakers – officials in the crucial early voting state of South Carolina who had endorsed Scott – and top staffers on this campaign.

Scott’s departure came as fellow South Carolinian Nikki Haley, a former two-term governor of the state who later served as ambassador to the United Nations in former President Trump’s administration, battles Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for a distant second place behind Trump, who remains the commanding front-runner for the GOP nomination.

In the days after Scott dropped out, two prominent donors who were backing him switched their support to Haley.

‘I’m on board with Nikki Haley. She’s got a lot of good attributes. She was always my second choice. Unbelievably good on foreign policy, her view on abortion is close to mine,’ metals magnate Andy Sabin told host Charles Payne on Fox News’ ‘Your World.’ 

Sabin, who has donated millions to conservative candidates and causes the past couple of election cycles, was backing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this election cycle before switching his financial support to Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate.

Eric Levine, a New York-based donor who was raising money for Scott, is holding a fundraiser to support Haley next week. 

Meanwhile, billionaire hedge fund founder Ken Griffin has said he’s considering financially backing Haley after remaining on the sidelines in the GOP primary. 

And Home Depot co-founder and billionaire Ken Langone plans to meet with Nikki Haley next week in New York.

‘The only person I see who can give Trump a run for his money is Nikki Haley,’ Langone said in a CNBC interview on Monday.

South Carolina is a crucial early voting state in the GOP presidential nominating calendar. It holds the first southern contest and votes fourth overall, after Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. And Scott’s departure from the race made his endorsers in the state valuable free agents.

DeSantis quickly picked up the backing of 10 state and local lawmakers and officials who had previously endorsed the senator.

‘Ron DeSantis is the leader we need for this exact moment,’ state Rep. Tom Hartnett Jr. said in a statement. ‘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.’

Separately, a newly formed DeSantis-aligned super PAC named Fight Right grabbed Blake Harris, who served as a Scott campaign senior political adviser, to helm its operations.

Alex Stroman, a South Carolina Republican operative and former state GOP executive director who is currently unaligned in the 2024 race, pointed out that ‘Haley’s locked up a lot of Tim Scott donors.’ 

Many who endorsed Scott are moving to endorse Haley, Stroman said: ‘I think Haley’s done the best since Scott got out.’

But Stroman also noted that ‘Trump’s locked up some of Scott’s electoral supporters. He’s had some of the senator’s endorsers come his way.’

Trump remains leagues ahead of Haley and the rest of the field in the latest South Carolina polls.

Trump returned to South Carolina last weekend, the state where he’s long enjoyed the backing of Sen. Lindsey Graham and Gov. Henry McMaster, Haley’s successor.

The former president drew plenty of cheers, as well as some boos, as he walked onto the field during the South Carolina-Clemson Palmetto Bowl game.

Two days later, Haley drew roughly 2,500 people to her first town hall in her home state since Scott dropped out of the race.

Longtime South Carolina-based Republican consultant Dave Wilson told Fox News that the Trump stop in the state and Haley’s campaign event ‘show that two of them are deciding that South Carolina is competitive ground between them.’

DeSantis returned to South Carolina on Friday, but he’s been concentrating his efforts on Iowa, whose Jan. 15 caucuses kick off the GOP presidential nominating calendar.

DeSantis last month landed the high-profile endorsement of Gov. Kim Reynolds, who remains very popular with Iowa Republicans. And two weeks later, he won the backing of Bob Vander Plaats, the president and CEO of The Family Leader, an influential social conservative organization in a state where evangelical voters play an outsized role in Republican politics.

Haley recently won the backing of Americans for Prosperity Action, the political wing of the influential and deep-pocketed fiscally conservative network founded by the billionaire Koch Brothers. AFP Action has pledged to spend tens of millions of dollars and mobilize its formidable grassroots operation to boost Haley and help push the Republican Party past Trump.

While it appears to be a three-person fight, there are other candidates still in the race.

Multimillionaire biotech entrepreneur and first-time candidate Vivek Ramaswamy is basing his campaign in Iowa for the final stretch as he barnstorms across the state. Ramaswamy’s also continuing his campaign efforts in New Hampshire, which holds the first primary and votes second in the Republican calendar.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who failed to make the stage at the third GOP presidential primary debate, is also spending plenty of time in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is running for the White House a second time, is avoiding Iowa as he once again concentrates much of his firepower in New Hampshire, where his support is in the double digits.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who registering at less than 1% in the polls, also remains in the race.

As the first contest on the GOP presidential nominating calendar, Iowa always plays a crucial role in winnowing the field.

‘I think Iowa’s going to be more determinative than ever as to who’s going to have momentum going into New Hampshire and South Carolina,’ longtime Republican strategist David Kochel predicted.

Kochel, a veteran of numerous presidential and statewide campaigns in Iowa, emphasized that ‘Trump already has a ticket. There’s maybe two more and maybe one more’ coming out of Iowa.’

This post appeared first on FOX NEWS

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