COLOMBIA, South Carolina (TodayNews) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis filed papers in the South Carolina Republican primary Tuesday, becoming the first major-party presidential candidate to be officially on the ballot in the South’s first contest.
DeSantis signed his papers during a stop at South Carolina’s Republican Party headquarters in Columbia, surrounded by supporters, including state lawmakers, who backed his bid.
The bid comes at a pivotal moment for DeSantis and his campaign as the governor makes his third move through South Carolina as a hopeful White House. He entered the race in May, expecting to be a major threat to former President Donald Trump. But DeSantis has struggled to encroach on Trump, who is leading the primaries, and has recently begun cutting campaign staff.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, he dismissed suggestions that his campaign might have gotten too big early on.
“After all, when you start, you make certain investments,” he said. “We do believe that having an important apparatus in the field is important in congregation states and early states.”
On Monday, DeSantis kicked off his South Carolina tour with an event in Tega Cay, an affluent area on Wylie Lake along the state’s border with North Carolina.
After about half an hour of speeches in which he touched on the highlights of his iconic speech, DeSantis also answered a few questions from a crowd of approximately 900 who had gathered to listen to him. Among those interviewed was a woman who described herself as a “strong Trump supporter” who said the 2024 election represented “the most important vote we’re going to get” and that she thought DeSantis “did a great job” standing up for his candidacy.
In his response, DeSantis denounced what he described as “government weapons” in the lawsuits brought against Trump, echoing the line the former president has honed in his speeches since he was indicted on federal charges.
“I appreciate what President Trump has done. … He was mistreated, he was treated in an unconstitutional way,” DeSantis said. “Here’s the thing – the question for us now is what are we going to do about it? … It’s not about me, it’s about you. It’s about me standing up for you, for the Constitution, and for the restoration of this country as the Founding Fathers envisioned it.”
Later Tuesday in Western Columbia, DeSantis — a former Navy officer who served in the Naval Attorney General’s Corps in Iraq — planned to roll out his plans to reform the U.S. military, which he argued is too focused on diversity and inclusion efforts.
On Monday night, DeSantis announced those plans, saying that as commander in chief, he will “unsettle” an army that today is full of “social experimentation, ideology, awakening program, pronouns, drag queens.” The introduction, along with a rare press conference, was planned to be held at the Freedom Celebration Foundation. The nonprofit founded by retired military leaders says on its website that its goal is to “honor past aviation pioneers and inspire future space and aviation pioneers” through a STEM outreach program targeted at K-12 students.
The rollout is DeSantis’ second official statement on campaign policy. In June, he outlined his immigration proposals, calling for the end of birthright citizenship and the completion of the southern border wall, during a visit to the Texas border town.
South Carolina is due to hold a Republican presidential primary on February 24. The state, which also boasts two of its homegrown candidates in 2024 — former Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott — is critical to Republican presidential candidates and has been a strong support base for Trump in his previous campaigns.
Meg Kinnard can be contacted at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP