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South Carolina Senator Tim Scott has endorsed Donald Trump’s bid for the White House, delivering a significant win for the former president — and a blow to the heart of Nikki Haley’s campaign.
Scott, a mild-mannered lawmaker from Haley’s home state of who dropped his own bid for the Republican nomination in November, took to a stage in New Hampshire on Friday night and proclaimed his support for the former president, who stood behind him.
“We need a president who will close our southern border today. We need a President Donald Trump,” Scott said. “We need a president who will unite our country. We need Donald Trump.”
The Scott endorsement will come as a gut punch to Haley, who as governor of South Carolina appointed him to the US Senate in 2013. It will also fuel speculation that Scott — the only black Republican senator — is in the running to be Trump’s pick for vice-president.
Haley responded earlier on Friday to news of Scott’s endorsement, saying in a statement to US media: “The fellas are gonna do what the fellas are gonna do.”
Scott’s support comes at a crucial time for Trump, who is seeking to turn his landslide win in this week’s Iowa caucuses into another decisive victory in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. The former president has rolled out several high-profile endorsements in recent days, including from Florida Senator Marco Rubio earlier this week.
Trump enjoys the public support of Henry McMaster, South Carolina’s Republican governor, and Lindsey Graham, the state’s other US senator.
Haley, who left the South Carolina governorship to be Trump’s UN ambassador, finished in a disappointing third place in Iowa on Monday, but has focused her campaign on New Hampshire, where opinion polls point to a closer contest.
But she still trails Trump by a considerable margin, and even if she were to pull off an upset in New Hampshire, the next big primary contest would be in South Carolina on February 24.
While Haley still has her hometown supporters, she would head into the South Carolina primary without the support of the governor or the state’s two US senators. Current opinion polls show Trump is supported by more than 57 per cent of South Carolina Republican voters, with Haley in a distant second on about 26 per cent.
“It is hard to see, whether it is New Hampshire, South Carolina, or any of the early states, any sort of break from what looks like a locomotive going to the nomination for Donald Trump,” said Wayne Lesperance, a political scientist and president of New England College, in Henniker, New Hampshire.