COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is set to make his first public appearance in South Carolina, a state where votes will be critical if he launches an expected 2024 presidential bid.
State Sen. Josh Kimbrell told The Associated Press that he would host DeSantis for an event on April 19 in Spartanburg, in South Carolina’s heavily Republican Upstate.
DeSantis’ first public visit to South Carolina, home of the leadoff presidential primary in the South, comes amid a brisk travel schedule during which the governor has taken his “Florida Blueprint” tour to Pennsylvania, New York and Michigan in recent weeks.
With an anticipated presidential bid in the offing, the travel has opened up an avenue for DeSantis to lay out some of his policy achievements in Florida, setting up possible contrasts with potential GOP rivals, including former President Donald Trump.
On Sunday, Kimbrell told the AP that he had been hoping to bring DeSantis to South Carolina for months now, arguing that politically savvy Republicans in the early voting state are accustomed to having multiple chances to get to know presidential candidates, in person.
“I’ve told everybody associated with his team, ’You’ve got to get here early and often,'” said Kimbrell, who has already joined efforts with a political action committee urging DeSantis to get into the race. “I’ve tried to make it clear to them that, if you want to win, you’ve got to get here early.” South Carolina for months has been hosting GOP candidates, including Trump, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. There have also been trips from many of those anticipated to join the field, including former Vice President Mike Pence. Later this week, after a swing through Iowa and New Hampshire, Sen. Tim Scott returns home to South Carolina for a summit with donors, as he mulls a bid of his own.
While this would be DeSantis’ first public South Carolina event, he was in the state last year for a gubernatorial fundraiser. The event near Charleston was attended by some of Trump’s top donors in the state.
To Kimbrell, who said he agrees with Trump on policy but not “on the way he approached things personally,” DeSantis is well-positioned to be a better alternative to Trump, but needs to start spending more time in South Carolina.
“I believe that Ron DeSantis is as popular among my base as Trump is,” Kimbrell said, of his heavily GOP district. “But you can’t just mail it in. He’s going to have to press the flesh, roll his sleeves up, and get really serious.”