Trump tests his influence in S.C. governor primary

President Donald Trump is wading into the swamp of South Carolina politics in the latest test of his pull in Republican primaries: an effort to save one of the earliest backers of his presidential campaign.

Gov. Henry McMaster, the first statewide elected official to endorse Trump in 2016, is in danger of losing the Republican nomination to an opponent who has portrayed him as an insider mired in endemic political corruption that has befallen state government.

McMaster finished first in the June 12 primary but fell short of a majority, prompting a runoff against businessman John Warren — and pushing Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to plan last-minute trips to South Carolina to campaign on McMaster’s behalf.

Warren is a political newcomer who has painted himself as the anti-establishment answer to South Carolina’s ills, even pledging at a recent debate to “drain the swamp” in Columbia. But the obvious parallels pale before the connection McMaster forged with Trump in 2016.

Sparse polling conducted in recent weeks indicates a tight race between McMaster and Warren, and the governor’s backers believe Pence’s weekend visit and Trump’s Monday appearance will push him over the finish line.

“Reinforcing the fact that they are for you and they are urging the people of South Carolina to support you. … It makes a significant difference,” said former state House Speaker David Wilkins, a McMaster supporter.

Trump has previewed his pitch for the governor on Twitter in recent days, repeatedly praising McMaster for his 2016 endorsement and touting him as “tough on Crime and Strong on Borders, Healthcare, the Military and our great Vets.” McMaster, meanwhile, has made Trump’s support a centerpiece of his reelection bid, boasting of it at debates and appearing onstage with the president at an October 2017 fundraiser.

McMaster has repeatedly aired ads featuring Trump’s endorsement and using Trump’s support as a bludgeon against his major primary challengers.



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