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Decision 2024

Trump's game security, Haley's time as governor - The Vote is this Saturday

“(Voters) may have a candidate they really like, policies in the past they really respected, but no matter what that person says or does, they’re not Donald Trump,” said Scott Huffmon, director of the Winthrop Poll.


Trump’s Clemson-Carolina game appearance added upwards of $17,000 to security costs

That compares to security costs of another night game, according to USC’s response this week to a FOIA request 2 1/2 months ago


SC Daily Gazette - FEBRUARY 16, 2024 1:48 PM

COLUMBIA — Former President Donald Trump’s appearance at South Carolina’s largest annual rivalry game cost upwards of $17,000 in added security, according to records requested by the SC Daily Gazette.

Again vying for the country’s highest office, Trump turned the field of Williams-Brice Stadium into a giant stage, smiling and waving to some 80,000 University of South Carolina and Clemson University fans Nov. 25 at the sold-out Palmetto Bowl.

The spectacle was a jab at Trump’s primary opponent and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Clemson alumna. Haley, who did not attend the game, fired back on social media after Clemson defeated USC 16-7.

Attending as a guest of Gov. Henry McMaster, Trump arrived at 7:30 p.m. and watched the first half of the game from a suite full of supporters, including Lt. Gov. Pam Evette, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, U.S. Rep. Russell Fry, state Treasurer Curtis Loftis and South Carolina House Speaker Murrell Smith of Sumter.

The GOP presidential frontrunner and McMaster then took to the field at halftime, where chants of “U-S-A!” drowned out scattered boos from the crowd.

Trump’s presence at the game required added security.

That included 14 South Carolina state troopers who worked along Trump’s Secret Service detail, according to the state Department of Public Safety. And two state Department of Natural Resources officers were tapped for transport duty ahead of the game, the state agencies told the SC Daily Gazette days later.

The state’s law enforcement agency, SLED, did not answer questions from the Daily Gazette, citing security reasons.

It wasn’t until late Wednesday that the University of South Carolina Athletics Department provided information the SC Daily Gazette requested in writing Nov. 28 under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. The college took 79 days and charged $50 to do so.

While it took longer, the information USC provided was more extensive.

According to USC’s athletic department, it spent about $94,500 for 464 security personnel inside the stadium during the game. By comparison, the department paid $83,800 for 387 security personnel when the Gamecocks took on the Mississippi State University Bulldogs the evening of Sept. 23. That’s a difference of $10,700 for the night games two months apart.

USC Athletics’ average cost of security per home game in 2023 was $81,800. So, security for the Palmetto Bowl was $12,600 above the season average.

But according to the response, there is typically more security on hand for high-interest games, such as the rivalry game against Clemson and for night games. In 2021, the last time the Palmetto Bowl was held in Columbia, USC Athletics had fewer security staff than normal due to ongoing COVID concerns. And the fewer officers available were paid $2 less per hour, making a direct comparison between the last two rivalry games at Williams-Brice Stadium faulty, according to the school’s response.

For the Trump visit, USC campus police also spent $7,000 extra on law enforcement outside the stadium, when compared to the Mississippi game: $190,000 versus $183,200.

That includes USC police, Lexington and Richland County sheriff’s deputies, Cayce police, officers from the state’s probation and parole agency, state Department of Revenue officers and officers from the state agency charged with guarding South Carolina’s first family.

USC Athletics said the school did not pay for Secret Service staff.


Jessica Holdman writes about the economy, workforce and higher education. Before joining the SC Daily Gazette, she was a business reporter for The Post and Courier.

For many SC voters, Haley’s job as governor doesn’t matter. A look at why.


SC Daily Gazette - FEBRUARY 19, 2024 9:44 AM

COLUMBIA — For many South Carolina voters choosing who they want to challenge President Joe Biden, Nikki Haley’s six years as governor here factors far less into their decision than who she’s trying to topple.

Home state advantage melts away against former President Donald Trump. Three-fourths of South Carolina voters say it makes no difference at all that Haley’s from South Carolina, according to a recent CBS News Poll.

Other results of the poll suggest why: Four of every five people likely to vote in the GOP primary said Trump “fights for people” like them, compared to just over half believing Haley does. Three-fourths said Haley is not part of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement. Voters’ answers also suggest Haley’s attacks on Trump may backfire among the MAGA faithful, with nearly two-thirds calling her criticism of Trump’s mental fitness unfair.

And despite her assertions that she’s more likely to beat Biden, most South Carolina voters still believe Trump has the better chance, according to the CBS poll of registered voters conducted between Feb. 5-10.

“(Voters) may have a candidate they really like, policies in the past they really respected, but no matter what that person says or does, they’re not Donald Trump,” said Scott Huffmon, director of the Winthrop Poll.

His latest poll, released last week, showed Haley trailing Trump by 36 percentage points among people likely to vote in the Feb. 24 contest that pits the former president against the former governor. It also showed that twice as many GOP voters view Haley unfavorably, compared to three months ago.

Huffmon thinks this is due more to her increasing attacks on Trump than on any baggage from her past — on the contrary, Haley has been consistently popular before her run for the Republican presidential nomination.

“Since she’s been out of office, her favorability in any poll we’ve done have been high among Republicans,” Huffmon said. “So, I don’t think anything from her past is inherently dragging her down.”

Not all voters in South Carolina, one of the nation’s fastest-growing states, remember Haley’s time as governor, which ended prematurely after Trump won the 2016 election and made her his first United Nations ambassador.

Some interviewed by the SC Daily Gazette still think she did well as governor. Others are more skeptical. But from Huffmon’s perspective, that skepticism is more recent.

“I think as this race is coming down to the wire, folks are looking for their own internal explanation for ‘why I am not supporting someone that I and my party have liked in the past,’” Huffmon said.

Some voters took issue with specific policies from Haley, such as a proposal to raise the age at which younger workers will be able to retire and collect their Social Security benefits.

But for many, the key differences are not in what the two candidates advocate. For example, for issues important for evangelical voters, who make up a large proportion of the Republican primary base, the two have very similar stances.

“In many ways, both candidates have similar views in standing up for and representing traditional values,” Jon Parker, executive director of South Carolina Faith and Freedom Coalition, told the Gazette. “Most of what I think your standard evangelical sees as different between the two is stylistic.”

‘Nikki Who’

Kim Cessna, 58, of Mount Pleasant came to Trump’s North Charleston rally on Valentine’s Day with a sign reading “Nikki Who?”

The message, which Cessna said she wanted to put on a T-shirt but didn’t have the time, borrows from Haley’s own recounting of her underdog run for governor in 2010, when the then-House member largely unknown outside her Lexington-area district beat a congressman, state attorney general and lieutenant governor.

“I do like her, I do,” Cessna said of Haley. “We need to do what’s good for the party. I don’t think she’s offensive, but I think that she doesn’t have a clear path. She needs to stop, let it go, and then she can have next time.”

Cessna, a coordinator for a construction company, was also skeptical of where Haley is getting her donations. Haley has faced accusations from other Republican rivals that she is supported by wealthy, liberal Wall Street sources. Haley has countered that no one dictates policy to her.

Other supporters pointed to Trump’s experience in the White House in selecting him over Haley.

“I just think he’s got more experience, and he’s already done it before,” said Keith Painter, 51, an operating technician who came to the Conway rally from Sumter.

Standing in line for Trump’s rally in North Charleston, Cadie Limbaker said she was glad Haley ran and was proud to have two South Carolinians running for president — including Sen. Tim Scott of North Charleston who dropped out and endorsed Trump. But she is skeptical of Haley as a candidate.

Her companion in line, Sal Seria, a 23-year-old manufacturing technician, said Haley is “shady” and disliked her proposal to raise the retirement age starting with workers now in their 20s. Both traveled from Manning in rural Clarendon County for the rally.

Limbaker, who works in tech support and as a rancher, said she remembers Haley’s tenure as governor.

“She’s not as conservative as she puts on,” said the 28-year-old, who would’ve been in her teens for much of it.

“She changes her opinion too much, depending on who’s funding her,” Seria said.

It’s an answer that resonates criticism from Haley’s opponents, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis before he dropped out.

“Kicking butt with high heels”

Many of Haley’s supporters appreciate her style as well as her track record as governor and ambassador. That includes her successful push in 2015 to remove the Confederate flag from Statehouse grounds following the massacre of nine worshippers at a historic Black church in Charleston.

“She did a great job for the state, and we’re looking forward to her kicking butt with high heels,” said Laura Dukes, a 62-year-old landscape architect who saw Haley in Newberry.

“I like her energy and her getting out there and sticking with it,” said Charlie Dukes, a 66-year-old retired mail carrier.

The Dukes, of Newberry, appreciated some of the things Trump had done but wanted a change. For other supporters, the fact Haley is not Trump is the most important thing about her campaign.

Michael Rose, 29, is a self-described moderate who said he supported Haley even when the primary field was more crowded.

“My primary motivation in this election, just like last election, is to beat Donald Trump,” he said at a Haley event in Elgin. “I hate that. I’d rather be focusing on policy and issues that matter to the American people, but it’s not going to happen.”

Rose is skeptical that Haley will do well in South Carolina, however.

“The question in my mind isn’t, ‘What do I think about South Carolina?’” he said. “It’s, ‘How does she still win despite South Carolina?’”

Huffmon, the pollster, said that for Haley a smaller-than-expected loss in the state where she was once CEO is as close to victory as she is likely to get — especially with little time left to turn things around.

“If she loses her home state by 30 points, that’s a very tough thing to take with you into the Super Tuesday states,” Huffmon said, referring to the March 5 contest in 15 states. “If she can claw back and still lose the state but not by nearly as much, that will almost be seen as an incredible comeback.”


Abraham Kenmore is a reporter covering elections, health care and more. He joins the SC Daily Gazette from The Augusta Chronicle, where he reported on Georgia legislators, military and housing issues.


Skylar Laird covers the South Carolina Legislature and criminal justice issues. Originally from Missouri, she previously worked for The Post and Courier’s Columbia bureau.