COLUMBIA, SC (AP) — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis filed paperwork for South Carolina’s Republican primary on Tuesday, officially becoming the first major-party presidential candidate on the ballot for the first competition from the South.
DeSantis signed his filing papers during a stop at South Carolina’s Republican Party headquarters in Columbia, flanked by supporters including state lawmakers who endorsed his candidacy.
The filing comes at an important time for DeSantis and his campaign as the governor makes his third stint through South Carolina as a White House hopeful. He entered the race in May with the hope that he would become the main threat to former President Donald Trump. But DeSantis has struggled to make inroads against Trump, who holds a commanding lead in the primary, and has recently begun cutting campaign staff.
He returned to the campaign trial on Monday, when he hosted an event in Tega Cay, an affluent community in Lake Wylie along the border with North Carolina.
After about half an hour of remarks, during which he touched on the highlights of his stump speech, DeSantis also took a handful of questions from the crowd of about 900 people gathered to hear him. The interrogators included a woman who described herself as a “stalwart Trump supporter” who said the 2024 election was “the most important vote we’re going to have” and that she felt DeSantis “made a excellent work” in pleading his candidacy.
In his response, DeSantis condemned what he called the “militarization of government” in the lawsuits against Trump, echoing a line the former president honed in his own speeches following his indictment for federal charges.
“I appreciate what President Trump has done. … He’s been treated badly, he’s been treated unconstitutionally,” DeSantis said. on this subject? …It’s not about me, it’s about you. This is about me standing up for you, standing up for the Constitution, and restoring this country to what the founding fathers envisioned.
Later Tuesday in West Columbia, DeSantis — a former Navy officer who served in the Navy Judge Advocate General Corps in Iraq — planned to roll out his plans to reform a U.S. military he says is too focused on diversity and inclusion efforts.
On Monday night, DeSantis previewed those plans, saying that as commander-in-chief he would “rip the revival” of an army that today is full of “social experimentation, ideology, ‘awake agenda, pronouns, drag queens’. The deployment, complete with a rare press conference, was scheduled for a stop at the Celebrate Freedom Foundation. The non-profit organization, founded by retired military leaders, says on its website that it aims to “honor past aviation pioneers and inspire future pioneers in space and space.” aviation” through a STEM outreach program for K-12 students.
The rollout is DeSantis’ second official political statement on the campaign. In June, he presented his immigration proposals — which call for ending birthright citizenship and completing construction of the southern border wall — during a visit to a Texas border town.
South Carolina is set to hold its GOP presidential primary on February 24. The state, which also has two local 2024 candidates – former Governor Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott – is key for Republican presidential candidates and has been a strong base of support for Trump in his previous campaigns.
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP