“Are they splitting the vote? Yes, they certainly are,” said Katon Dawson, a former chair of the South Carolina Republican Party who supports Haley. “Are they going to take something away from Donald Trump? I do not know yet.
Trump still commands a majority share of support among Republican voters in South Carolina. He did not attend the event on Saturday, although he was invited. Neither did Mr. DeSantis, who was also invited. Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, who is still considering a possible presidential run and attended the forum, told reporters Saturday that the presence of Scott and Haley created “a bit of a tricky arena.”
Mr. Scott has been on a week-long listening tour of the early primary states, namely Iowa and South Carolina. Outside of the necessary engagements with voters and donors, Mr. Scott has paid special attention to religious leaders and has conducted several listening sessions with pastors. Ms. Haley, whose campaign has boasted making nearly 20 campaign stops in the month she ran, plans to visit New Hampshire later in March.
Ms. Haley and Mr. Scott are two Republicans of color in a majority white party. Each has used that distinction to quash Democratic criticism of systemic racism in America and to make the case that the country remains a beacon of progress and opportunity.
“America is not racist, we are blessed,” Ms Haley said, a message she has repeatedly emphasized.
Mr. Dawson, the former state president The Republican Party, which supports Ms. Haley, offered another scenario. Rather than cannibalize each other’s voters, Haley and Scott, he said, could consolidate their resources if one of them suspended his presidential bid to support the other. Such a move could strengthen the odds of a contender against a top-voting candidate, such as Trump or DeSantis.
“If you get those two together on something, you have a problem,” Dawson said. “Because they like each other.”