Two weeks ago, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster played his trump card.
President Donald Trump attended and spoke at a fundraiser in Greenville for McMaster, who is campaigning to remain governor. Not only was McMaster looking to boost his campaign donations, he was courting the conservative voters who helped Trump capture the Republican nomination before winning the the election in the Electoral College.
But McMaster’s top rival for the GOP nomination heading into the 2018 election might be angling for a trump card of her own.
Catherine Templeton defended and endorsed an appearance in South Carolina by Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon. The executive chairman of Breitbart News is scheduled to be the special guest of the annual Patriot Dinner held by the The Citadel Republican Society in Charleston on Nov. 10.
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“I think it’s ridiculous they’re upset,” Templeton said Monday during a radio interview with WTMA’s Charlie James. “For people to be upset that he’s going to come to South Carolina to give his perspective is so hypocritical. It’s such a marker of liberal outrage for not getting their way. I’m glad he’s coming, I’m welcoming him to the state.”
Templeton would likely also welcome Bannon’s support in the GOP primary. More importantly, the 46-year-old Charleston attorney certainly wants the conservative voters who rally to his cause. Many who didn’t fully support Trump until Bannon joined his campaign full time, where he’s credited for being the driving force behind Trump’s nationalist ideology.
Bannon can’t be held accountable for everything printed by Breitbart, Templeton said, perhaps looking to excuse its executive chairman from blame for some of the conservative news agency’s more inflammatory rhetoric. Templeton and Bannon might see eye-to-eye on one of Breitbart’s more controversial stances.
Shortly after convicted white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine African-Americans during Bible study at Charleston’s historic Mother Emanuel AME church in 2015, Breitbart published an ode to the rebel flag, saying it “proclaims a glorious heritage.”
While Templeton supported the removal of the Confederate flag from the State House grounds, in the past she said she would not support other Confederate monuments being removed, and is “proud of the Confederacy.”
During the radio interview, Templeton lavished Bannon with praise. She shared a story about being invited to Trump Tower after the 2016 election to interview for a possible position in the Trump Administration.
Along with meeting Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, Templeton was taken from her meeting with Bannon, saying she knew he was brilliant in 5 minutes.
“Steve Bannon is a higher-level thinker,” said Templeton, before paying possibly her highest compliment. “I applaud Steve Bannon for being the voice for the rest of us.”
That’s a term Templeton borrowed from her father. She said he described “us” as the people who have “followed rules, worked hard, done what we’re supposed to do, not minded helping those who need help.”
Although Bannon was fired by Trump over the summer, Templeton still referred to him as one of the president’s top advisers. Although Trump is currently in McMaster’s corner, should Templeton unseat the incumbent in the primary, expect her to seek a presidential endorsement.
She was complimentary of Trump in the radio interview, and said his position as a political outsider was what helped him get elected. It’s a role she’s trying to embrace herself.
It’s the same pitch that helped Republicans Mark Sanford and Nikki Haley get elected governor four times between 2002 and 2016. To a degree, it’s an appropriate label for Templeton who has never held, or run for, elected office. Templeton, however, was a former cabinet member for two agencies under Gov. Haley.
That isn’t preventing her from painting herself as an outsider.
When asked about the success she’s had in fundraising, basically creating a dead heat with McMaster, she was quick to remove herself from the political status quo at the S.C. State House.
“It’s a huge message from all of the state. Statewide support for an outsider who hasn’t been part of corruption in Columbia,” said Templeton, who recently topped McMaster’s quarterly receipts for the first time.
Templeton raised $602,874 from July through September, surpassing the $567,784 McMaster raised over the same time period.
In addition to trying to unseat McMaster, Templeton is running against Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant and former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill in a crowded GOP primary field.
Two Democrats – state Rep. James Smith and businessman Phil Noble – have also entered the governor’s race.
“There’s no turning back, there are too many of us counting on fresh air,” Templeton said.
Staff writer Jamie Self contributed to this report.