Former President Donald Trump will host his first public campaign event of the new year in South Carolina, according to POLITICO.
The event comes after what many called a sleepy 2024 presidential campaign launch in November, and will be a more intimate affair rather than a token rally.
POLITICO reports Trump will roll out leadership choices at the event as the campaign lays the groundwork for the GOP nomination battle heading into the 2024 cycle.
South Carolina is a strategic pick for the year’s campaign opening. The state is the first in the South Primary for both major political parties and is considered crucial for Republicans, many of whom are weeded out of the nomination process early based on performance in South Carolina.
A date for the campaign event has not yet been announced, but it will follow about a month and a half of quiet from the campaign since Trump’s launch in November just before the politically slow holiday season.
Since his launch, Trump has faced criticism by many, including some within his own party, for a series of Midterm endorsements that fell flat, a poor showing nationwide that many blame on Trump’s flawed candidates. He also faced criticism for launching his campaign before the Georgia runoff election for Senate, which saw another of Trump’s handpicked candidates, Herschel Walker, fail to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock. Warnock’s victory gave Democrats a decisive majority in the chamber, growing from a 50-50 split that required a power-sharing agreement between parties, to a 51-49 outright majority for Democrats.
POLITICO spoke with Trump advisors Brian Jack, Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles, who all pushed back on the notion that Trump’s campaign so far has lacked his typical bluster.
Activities so far, they argue, have been foundational, including opening a campaign headquarters in West Palm Beach, public appearances in key Primary states throughout the Midterm elections, and hiring senior staff.
LaCivita told POLITICO that “not all that occurs in the campaign is done in the public eye,” adding that they don’t necessarily advertise “those aspects of campaign building.”
His advisors didn’t say when rallies would resume but did say it made little sense to spend that kind of money on such events this early in the campaign.
Indeed, Trump is so far the only Republican candidate to formally announce his candidacy, though plenty of names are rumored or expected to become part of the fray. That includes Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose reelection in November over Charlie Crist, a 20-point shellacking, positioned DeSantis as perhaps a more viable candidate who offers the Trump brand of politics without the baggage.
Trump is so far doing what advisers explained, by expanding his presence in key Primary states. He hired two strategists from Iowa — Alex Latcham and Eric Branstad — and supported Iowa remaining the first-in-the-nation in the nomination process through its caucuses even as calls mounted for that honor to be bestowed elsewhere. According to POLITICO, that also included taking out a full-page advertisement in the Iowa GOP’s annual legislative breakfast program.
He’s also taken steps in New Hampshire and Nevada.
The South Carolina event is a strategic step also considering two potential rivals — former U.N. Ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, who represents South Carolina. It also may play on Trump’s success in the state when he first won the GOP’s nomination for President in 2016. He won about a third of the vote in what was a crowded Primary.
Then, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio trailed Trump by 10 percentage points, earning second place in the South Carolina Primary. He dropped out of the race on March 15, less than a month after the Feb. 20 contest.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz was the only other candidate to surpass 20% in South Carolina and dropped out May 3.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush finished fourth in the South Carolina Primary with less than 8% of the vote. He dropped out the same day.
If Trump can again dominate in South Carolina, he could whittle whatever field emerges for the nomination.
The South Carolina strategy isn’t the only one at play, though. The campaign, in contrast to four years ago, is keeping lean. Ahead of 2020, Trump based his campaign in a lavish office in Arlington, Virginia. This cycle’s headquarters near Trump’s Mar-A-Lago home stands in contrast with few decorations, used furniture, only two televisions and what POLITICO describes as a “cheap refrigerator.”
The step away from extravagance may signal a different direction for the former President in his third campaign, but that opulence, and Trump’s token nods to his personal wealth and success, was often what defined him. It remains to be seen whether the more hushed tone will stick, or if it will carry him through a campaign plagued by criminal investigations and increasing intra-party strife.