Politics & Government

Resigned to Trump, half of SC delegation will attend GOP convention

Workers install balloons in preparation for the Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena, Friday, July 15, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio.
Workers install balloons in preparation for the Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena, Friday, July 15, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. AP

Only half of South Carolina’s Republican delegation in Congress is heading to Cleveland for the 2016 Republican National Convention. The four lawmakers attending all backed other candidates during the primaries, sometimes several, before slowly coming around to a lukewarm acceptance of Donald Trump as their party’s nominee for president.

Not attending

Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has been blunt about his dislike of Trump, is skipping next week’s four-day event that will officially make the New York businessman his party’s presidential nominee. Graham has said he will not vote for Trump in November’s election.

Reps. Trey Gowdy, Jeff Duncan and Mick Mulvaney will also sit out the convention but have said they will support Trump as their candidate.

Heading to Cleveland


Considered a rising star in the Republican Party, Sen. Tim Scott was a coveted endorsement ahead of the nation’s first-in-the-South primary in his home state. But he wasn’t for Trump.

“We have one shot in 2016 to beat Hillary Clinton – and that shot is Marco Rubio,” he said in a video endorsing the Florida senator in February.

When Trump became the de-facto nominee in May, Scott’s campaign told McClatchy that as he had “consistently said over the past year,” he would support the Republican nominee. When possible, Scott did not mention Trump’s name, and like his fellow Rubio endorsers Gov. Nikki Haley and Gowdy, his support was not backed by much enthusiasm.

Scott sounded cautiously optimistic after last week’s face-to-face meeting between Republican senators and Trump.

“From my perspective we’re making progress in the right direction,” Scott told reporters. “I think you’re seeing the process of unification start.” He said Trump had “done a very good job of being the force that people coalesce around.”

Scott, the only African-American Republican in the Senate, will not speak at the convention. On Thursday, he framed going to the event less in terms of the candidate and more as an opportunity to have a policy discussion.

“If we hear out of the Republican convention a theme of fairness and opportunity that starts with jobs and the economy, I think that will resonate very, very strongly in the African-American community, as well as every other community,” Scott said on ABC’s Powerhouse Politics podcast.


Rep. Mark Sanford endorsed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz ahead of South Carolina’s primary. Acceptance of Trump, however cautious, did not come easy to the former S.C. governor.

“Not that political views mean anything in this year, but, because I believe in constitutionally limited government, (Trump’s) candidacy is one I certainly can’t support,” he said in March.

I like much of what he says, but I’m very concerned about the way he says it.

Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C.

Sanford also shared an open letter to Trump supporters written by Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse with his Facebook followers. In the post, Sasse explains that while he would not back Hillary Clinton, “if Donald Trump ends up as the GOP nominee, conservatives will need to find a third option.”

After attending the in-person meeting between Trump and about 200 fellow House Republicans last week, Sanford told McClatchy he remained one of the lawmakers who still had questions “based on tone and tenor” of the candidate.

“I like much of what he says, but I’m very concerned about the way he says it,” he said.


Rep. Tom Rice, who will be attending the convention, supported Graham’s presidential bid early on. After meeting with Trump last week, he said he understands the appeal for voters.

“I think that’s what people love about him, that what you see is what you get,” Rice told reporters. “He’s our nominee and I’m supporting him.”


Rep. Joe Wilson formally endorsed Graham before he withdrew in December, and then became a last-minute backer of Marco Rubio during the South Carolina primary. He has not made any public statements on Trump since he became the nominee but will be attending the convention in Cleveland.

Vera Bergengruen: 202-383-6036, @verambergen