Tim Scott endorses Donald Trump ahead of New Hampshire Republican primary
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina endorsed Donald Trump Friday ahead of next week’s New Hampshire primary, the latest sign the Republican party is rallying around the former president's candidacy after his historic Iowa win.
The decision marks a major blow to Scott's fellow South Carolinian Nikki Haley, the former U.N. ambassador who is banking on a strong showing in New Hampshire to keep her presidential hopes alive.
Scott flew with Trump from Florida to New Hampshire to deliver his effusive endorsement in a rousing call-and-response speech that resembled a vice presidential tryout.
The U.S. needs a president who will close the southern border, unite the country, protect social security and restore order, and one who doesn’t see race, Scott said.
“We need a president who sees Americans as one American family, and that’s why I came to the very warm state of New Hampshire to endorse the next president of the United States, President Donald Trump,” Scott said.
Scott did not mention Haley, who as South Carolina governor elevated him from the House to the Senate and made him one of the nation's most prominent Black Republicans.
With four days to go before the first-in-the-nation primary, Trump asked New Hampshire voters to deliver a decisive victory that could end the GOP primary and allow him to fully turn his attention to the November contest against Democratic President Joe Biden.
“We want to win by big numbers,” he said, “so everybody has to vote."
Before he spoke, Trump’s crowd was warmed up by New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, a rising GOP star whose tough questioning of the presidents of elite universities led two of them to resign after they gave milquetoast responses to antisemitism.
Trump later invited Stefanik for her moment onstage — giving the appearance of vice presidential auditions.
Trump surrogates, many believed to be angling for his vice presidential nod, have fanned out to heap praise on the former president ahead of the New Hampshire primary and last week’s Iowa caucuses.
Trump all but ruled out Haley for the role during his rally in Concord. He has been under considerable pressure from the right to make clear he won’t pick Haley, including from his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.
“She is not presidential timber,” Trump said of Haley. “Now when I say that, that probably means that she’s not gonna be chosen as the vice president.”
Scott last May launched his own bid to challenge Trump before shuttering his effort about six months later, having had trouble gaining traction in the polls despite millions invested by high-profile donors.
In his efforts to run a positive campaign, Scott was often overshadowed by other candidates — particularly on the debate stage, where he seemed to disappear as others sparred.
In a sign that the GOP is increasingly coalescing around the front-runner, Trump has been appearing on the campaign trail with several other former rivals who have endorsed him, including North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.
Unlike those two, however, who were more reticent to critique Trump as they ran against him, Scott was at times critical of the former president during his own campaign.
In Concord, supporters waited hours in 17-degree weather, snaking through a dark hotel parking lot, to see Trump in person Friday evening.
Among them was Nancy Catano, a 72-year-old part-time schoolteacher who spent three hours in the frigid cold and was thrilled to learn about Scott’s planned endorsement.
“Oh awesome. I love him. That’s wonderful,” she said. “That’s going to be wonderful. That’s great support for him.”
Catano said it was notable that former Trump rivals were now rallying around him as the front-runner. “So they’re realizing that we need to unite to win. We have to win,” she said.
She said she has zero doubt Trump will be the nominee at this point.
“I think Tuesday is gonna be an exciting day,” she said. “He wiped out Iowa and I’m expecting the same here in New Hampshire.”
Trump celebrated his decisive victory in Iowa and heaped scorn on his rivals. He called Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ' fall to a distant second place “one of the great self-destructions I think I’ve ever witnessed.” Haley, he said, is “not capable of doing this job.”
There has been speculation that Scott could potentially be a running mate option for Trump, should the former president win the GOP nomination. When Scott entered the race in May, Trump welcomed his latest competitor with open arms, wishing him “good luck” with hospitality that some suggested was an acknowledgment that Trump saw an increased number of competitors as beneficial to his own bid.
Scott's endorsement was sought by the remaining major contenders in the Republican primary, particularly ahead of South Carolina's Feb. 24 primary, which has historically been influential in determining the eventual nominee.
DeSantis, who placed just ahead of Haley in Iowa's caucuses this week, has been shifting his campaign resources from Iowa to South Carolina. He planned to stump in the state on Saturday, aiming to continue his effort to take on Haley — who has been pinning much of her early-states campaign on New Hampshire — directly in her home state.
Haley appointed Scott to the Senate in 2012. On Friday, a spokesperson for her campaign downplayed Scott's impending endorsement of Trump.
“Interesting that Trump’s lining up with all the Washington insiders when he claimed he wanted to drain the swamp," Olivia Perez-Cubas said. "But the fellas are gonna do what the fellas are gonna do.”
Beth Scaer, 61, of Nashua, said she briefly considered Ramaswamy but quickly decided “he wasn’t a serious candidate” and is now backing DeSantis, whom she praised for being pro-life and for protecting children “from the gender cult.”
Scott’s decision to endorse Trump made no difference to her.
“No one’s endorsement would matter to me,” Scaer said.
David Josko, 76, of Rollinsford, said he'll probably vote for DeSantis now that former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has dropped out. He said he would have supported Trump “if he just kept doing his job instead of having to pull a bear’s tail,” he said, using an expression he said described Trump’s provocative behavior.
“It seemed to me like the press was pushing more for Trump because they can make more money off of Trump," Josko said at an Irish pub in Dover where he went to see DeSantis speak. "And so, like, anytime anybody burped, it became big news.”
Kinnard reported from Columbia, S.C. Associated Press writer Jonathan J. Cooper in Phoenix contributed.
Meg Kinnard be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP