COLUMBIA, S.C. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is scheduled to headline next month a barbecue billed as South Carolina's largest annual gathering of Republicans.
This centerpiece appearance, in a state where success has historically been a catalyst for GOP presidential nominees, provides DeSantis with an opportunity to make his case in front of a large number of party activists, with whom former President Donald Trump, the GOP primary front-runner, remains popular.
DeSantis will speak Aug. 28 at the Faith & Freedom BBQ in Anderson, event host Rep. Jeff Duncan told The Associated Press on Thursday.
“I’ve had the privilege of knowing Ron for several years now," said Duncan, who represents South Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District, adding that he and DeSantis were members of the House Freedom Caucus. “In Florida, I’ve admired his work to protect children, stand up to woke corporations, combat illegal immigration, and challenge the Biden administration.”
According to Duncan’s office, the casual event is the state’s largest annual gathering of Republicans, typically drawing more than 1,000 attendees. It features long rows of picnic tables, copious sweet tea and barbecue sides.
The fundraiser, benefiting Duncan’s reelection campaign, has long been a showcase for possible White House contenders, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, then-Vice President Mike Pence, Sens. Ted Cruz, Joni Ernst and Marco Rubio, and former U.N. Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who's now part of the 2024 field.
Sen. Tim Scott addressed the crowd last year as anticipation for his own eventual 2024 presidential bid began to build.
The gathering will take place less than a week after Republicans’ first 2024 primary debate in Milwaukee. DeSantis and half a dozen other GOP candidates — including Trump, Haley and Scott — have said they’ve qualified for the debate stage, although Trump has indicated he likely won't attend. Pence has yet to satisfy the requirement that participants have at least 40,000 unique donors.
The barbecue also follows Trump's keynote earlier in August for the South Carolina Republican Party's Silver Elephant fundraiser, as well as entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy's appearance at the Dorchester County GOP’s Faith, Family & Freedom Dinner.
Duncan is one of the few Republicans in South Carolina's delegation not already aligned with a presidential candidate. Trump has secured the support of Reps. Joe Wilson, Russell Fry and William Timmons, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham. Haley has been endorsed by Rep. Ralph Norman.
Rep. Nancy Mace hasn't yet endorsed for the primary.
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.