Real estate mogul Donald Trump has said “you’re hired” to staff in South Carolina for a potential 2016 presidential bid.
The Republican hopeful’s co-chairs in the Palmetto State are Columbia public relations executive Ed McMullen and former state Sen. John Russell of Spartanburg, whose father was governor of South Carolina in the 1960s, said Corey Lewandowski, a senior political adviser to Trump.
State Rep. Jim Merrill, a Berkeley Republican and former House majority leader, will be Trump’s political adviser in South Carolina, Lewandowski said.
Trump, who has visited South Carolina twice since January, has plans to return several times through June, Lewandowski said. Those plans include trips to Charleston for a nonprofit event later this month, Columbia for the S.C. Republican Convention in May and Greenville for the S.C. Freedom Forum in May.
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“He is going to be going to spend as much time as needed in South Carolina. He has the plane,” McMullen said, referring to Trump’s private Boeing 757 jet.
Trump has talked about running for president previously. But this is the first time the New York tycoon has hired staff in early primary states, including Iowa and New Hampshire, Lewandowski said.
Unlike previous years, Trump’s children now are more involved in running his businesses. Trump also is not continuing his reality television show, “Celebrity Apprentice,” while weighing a presidential bid.
Trump is expected to decide about a 2016 run in June or July, Lewandowski said.
McMullen said Trump will embrace his wealth on the campaign trail, citing it as a role model for free enterprise while the “social-welfare state keeps getting bigger.”
“He’s not been planning to run for president since being in the College Republicans,” McMullen said. “He’s a businessman who has made a lot of money. He has lived the American dream when it comes to business and industry.
“He’s got an unbelievable personality, and, like me, he is tired of the political nonsense and wants a serious leader in charge of this country,” McMullen said. “He’s not a conventional politician.”
McMullen worked for U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in the 2000 and 2008 presidential elections, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 2012, the surprise winner of the S.C. primary.
“I heard the same things about Newt (as I have about Trump) that he’ll never win,” McMullen said. “But we showed that was not the case.”