COLUMBIA, S.C. (February 23, 2021) — As political observers mull the future of the Republican Party following the presidency of Donald Trump, the former president is making it clear that he's going to continue to play an active part. Trump is endorsing South Carolina's GOP chairman Drew McKissick for a third term, wading not only into state-level politics but also playing a role in maintaining the local party framework in places that backed his presidency.
"He asked if I had anybody running against me, and I said, 'No, and I'm trying to keep it that way,'" McKissick told The Associated Press on Monday, describing his call with Trump more than a week ago. "He said, 'Yeah, that's the best way to do it.'"
McKissick, a longtime Republican activist and consultant, since 2017 has chaired the GOP in South Carolina, where Republicans control both legislative chambers, all statewide offices and all but one congressional seat. Home of the first-in-the-South presidential primaries, South Carolina plays a crucial role in the nominating process, hosting numerous candidates seeking their party's top slots.
Trump's South Carolina ties are deep. In 2016, then-Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster was the country's first statewide-elected official to back Trump, whose primary win here helped cement his frontrunner status. Trump then cleared the way for McMaster's promotion by naming then-Gov. Nikki Haley U.N. Ambassador.
Despite feuding in 2016, Trump and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham have developed a close relationship, particularly over Graham's advocation for Trump's judicial nominees. Graham's shifting positions on Trump have at times been at odds, but a recent visit to Mar-a-Lago seems to indicate that the alliance remains.
As chairman, McKissick has remained a steadfast Trump supporter, successfully calling off the state's 2020 Republican primary in favor of throwing support behind the incumbent, with McKissick saying Trump faced "no legitimate primary challenger" and had a "record of results" for the state.
Now, as some in the GOP broadly ponder a reckoning in the post-Trump era, state parties across the country under the leadership of chairs like McKissick have shown their loyalty, keeping Trump at the center of the local GOP brand.