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Trump recruits South Carolina leaders to undermine Haley ahead of N.H. primary

MANCHESTER, N.H. — The New Hampshire primary may be two days away, but Donald Trump is surrounding himself with South Carolina Republicans.

A day after receiving the endorsement of Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), a former opponent, Trump on Saturday deployed an even larger show of support from South Carolina to try to undercut former U.N. ambassador and South Carolina governor Nikki Haley here in New Hampshire and assert his dominance in the primary, which heads to the Palmetto State next month.

Standing before hundreds of people at a rally here, Trump was joined onstage by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster; Pamela Evette, the state’s lieutenant governor; Alan Wilson, the state’s attorney general; South Carolina House Speaker Murrell Smith; and Curtis Loftis, the state treasurer. Reps. Russell Fry, William Timmons and Joe Wilson, all U.S. House members from South Carolina, also flanked the former president.

Trump introduced the officials, praising each of them and highlighting their rank in Haley’s home state. He emphasized that they had come to New Hampshire to support him because they “understand that I am the only candidate in this race who can save America from every single Biden disaster starting on Day One.”

“To the people of New Hampshire: All you need to know about Nikki Haley is that every globalist, liberal, Biden supporter and ‘Never Trumper’ is on her side — and virtually every single leader … in her home state of South Carolina is on our side. We have almost everybody,” he said after four of them, including McMaster, spoke on his behalf.

Trump joked that he had invited the South Carolina leaders to attempt to get in their good graces ahead of the state’s primary next month.

McMaster said he and the South Carolina delegation were here to make the point that the majority of the people of South Carolina were with Donald Trump — not the former governor.

“That’s why we are here. We are here for one reason: Those great philosophers, the Spice Girls, tell us what you want, what you really, really want. Well that’s what we’re here to do, to tell you what we in South Carolina want,” said McMaster, 76, quoting the British pop group’s song “Wannabe,” which was met with a standing ovation from the crowd.

“New Hampshire is for Trump. South Carolina is, too. We’ll see you at the finish line,” he said.

Haley on Saturday waved off Trump’s efforts to undermine her ahead of his rally with the delegation from her home state. When Haley was specifically asked about the decision by McMaster — who served as lieutenant governor during her time as governor — to come to campaign for Trump, she quipped in response: “I’m sorry, is that the person I ran against for governor and beat? Just checking.”

“Yet another nearly 80-year-old that’s trying to make an impact,” New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) added.

Haley argued that legislators in South Carolina were not backing her because, as governor, she forced their hand to back an ethics reform and called out their “wasteful spending.”

“There’s a reason there’s no love for me from the legislature in South Carolina,” she said during a campaign stop in Peterborough.

On congressional lawmakers backing Trump, she said she was not surprised because she is calling for more accountability from elected officials. There should be term limits, mental competency tests, and members should not get paid if they fail to pass a budget on time, she said. Haley on Saturday also questioned Trump’s mental fitness.

Haley’s odds of stopping or slowing his momentum lie here in the Granite State, where independent voters make up nearly 39 percent of the electorate. Haley’s lead among this bloc has narrowed in recent days, and she continues to trail Trump among Republican voters in polls.

At his rallies, Trump has repeatedly sought to diminish Haley’s résumé and said that he appointed Haley to become his U.N. ambassador to allow McMaster to become governor. McMaster was lieutenant governor at the time.

Trump’s move was similar to a strategy he deployed against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this summer when he was viewed as his strongest challenger in the GOP primary. Trump brought members of the Florida delegation who had endorsed him to the Iowa State Fair.

In a not-so-subtle mention of Haley on Friday, Trump noted when he first introduced Scott: “I’m running against somebody from his state.” The senator came on the stage energetic, drawing an enthusiastic reception from the crowd as he told them, “We need a president like Donald Trump.”

Scott’s endorsement comes after the U.S. senator ended his own presidential bid in November. During his campaign, Scott — dubbed the “happy warrior” by many of his allies — refrained from criticizing the former president directly, with the exception of Trump’s reluctance to endorse a 15-week abortion ban. Scott sought to draw a contrast with Trump primarily through his tone, offering an optimistic vision of the country going forward.

Haley acknowledged it was a letdown to see Scott, whom she appointed to the Senate in 2012, come out in support of Trump’s bid for a second term.

“Was I disappointed? Of course I was,” she said at the Peterborough campaign stop.

Supporters at the Trump event were pleased to see leaders from the Palmetto State coming to New Hampshire on behalf of the former president — even if they weren’t familiar with everyone who took the stage.

“I say: The more, the merrier,” said Chris Levesque, 52, who attended the rally with his sister.

Gerry Blaisdell, 55, who waited for hours in the cold to attend the rally with her friend, said Trump was sending the right message by showing the widespread support he has beyond New Hampshire.

“The other side is going to come after him for as long as they can, so he needs this united front with him,” she said.

Marianne LeVine and Dylan Wells contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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