Trump hints at running for president again, backs candidates in SC while criticizing Biden

FLORENCE – In a move to endorse challengers against incumbents who have been critical of him after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and in his first public appearance since Russia invaded Ukraine, former President Donald Trump hinted at running for reelection again in 2024 during a rally Saturday night in South Carolina.

Before a crowd of thousands and alongside notable figures in the Palmetto State, Trump echoed Republican talking points that have been circling the South Carolina Statehouse and beyond. In a speech spiked with rightwing vocabulary, he called for:

  • increased domestic oil production,

  • better election integrity,

  • banning critical race theory,

  • ending COVID vaccine mandates, and

  • saving women's sports by prohibiting transgender participation.

Trump wants national legislation about issues like critical race theory

While endorsing candidates Katie Arrington and Russell Fry in congressional races, Trump said that there needs to be national legislation that bans "critical race theory," a catchall phrase describing lessons that could make students feel uncomfortable about their ethnicity or where one race is seen as oppressive.

Arrington, Fry and several other GOP campaigns, since the gubernatorial race in Virginia, have made banning critical race theory a core promise to voters.

Even legislation such as the "save women's sports" bill, which was discussed Thursday in the Statehouse, was on Trump's radar. The bill, flagged for being an anti-LGBTQ bill by LGBTQ advocates, would ban transgender women or women with high testosterones levels in their bodies from competing in sports reserved for women.

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Arrington is running in the June 14 Republican primary for South Carolina's 1st Congressional District against incumbent Nancy Mace.

Fry is running in the primary for the state's 7th Congressional District against incumbent Tom Rice.

Rice voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection, and Mace was critical of Trump's handling of Jan. 6.

Trump backs challengers in SC

Though Trump said his main focus was targeting "radical Democrats," Mace and Rice were Republicans whom he said had flipped loyalties to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, after moving to Washington, D.C. Hence, Trump endorsed challengers he said represented conservative and Christian values, which he said he identified in Arrington and Fry.

The 2022 race is not Arrington's first rodeo in the race for the 1st Congressional District. In 2018, Arrington beat former Gov. Mark Sanford in the primary but later lost to Democrat Joe Cunningham.

Trump later appointed her as the chief information officer in the Department of Defense, but she was let go after complaints involving misuse of office funds.

"I’m a lot like DJT; I’m not a politician," Arrington said Saturday in an attempt to capitalize on Trump's endorsement.

More: Critical race theory and education are likely to become talking points in 2022 elections.

Trump pushes for more domestic oil production

Much like U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and several other GOP lawmakers, Trump said that the U.S. needs to extract and produce more oil to become energy-independent and stop importing oil from Russia.

Trump said he was the only president in the 21st century on whose watch Russia had not invaded another country. But since the Biden administration took over, Trump said, a perception of strength and dominance has taken a severe hit.

To be able to counter Russia and China's growth, he said, the U.S. needs to tap into its oil reserves.

More: Sen. Lindsey Graham calls for sanctions on Russia's oil, gas industry over Ukraine invasion

However, unlike Graham, who has been careful to emphasize finding "environmentally sound" ways to move to a lower-carbon economy, Trump said that shutting down oil pipelines such as the Keystone XL pipeline is part of the "Green New Deal" agenda pushed by "radical Democrats" and "Leftists" such as U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Trump said that Ocasio-Cortez did not have a degree in environmental science and yet was sounding the alarm on rising sea water and global warming.

The real global warming, he said, would be a nuclear war, and he said that the U.S. needs to tell Russia that it has "bigger, better" nuclear weapons.

During his presidency, Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement, withdrew the Iran Nuclear Deal and greenlighted oil-extraction projects.

In 2024, when Trump said the GOP will take back the White House, the U.S. will restart pipelines, he said.

False claims of a 'rigged election' and accusations of 'fake news'

During his rally Saturday in the Pee Dee, Trump reiterated false claims of "irregularities" and a "rigged" outcome in the 2020 presidential election.

He blamed his loss on mail-in ballots and absentee voting and said that elections should require a universal voter I.D. and establish same-day voting.

Trump also revisited his attempt at changing the narrative of Jan. 6 and repeatedly called the media the "fake news media." Like he did in a late January rally in Texas, Trump said what happened that day was not an insurrection.

The 45th president also called an investigation into his tax records by a "smear campaign."

Former Gamecocks coach Lou Holtz, others indicate Trump influence in SC

Trump hasn't announced his campaign for another term as president, but all signs point to it. His "Save America" rally began in the same fashion as most Trump rallies do: rock classics from yesteryear, tens of thousands of attendees, these bundled in rain jackets and winter coats, and red caps with "Make America Great Again" on them.

Several state and national political analysts have viewed these rallies as part of a series of "soft campaign" events.

Former University of South Carolina football coach Lou Holtz, who has called Trump the "greatest president" in his lifetime, said that every decision that the 45th president has made was made to "help the country" and not himself.

"I trust him completely — when he says something, take it to the bank," Holtz said.

So far, Trump has endorsed 122 candidates in primaries to oust anyone who has been critical of him or challenged him.

In Texas, where primaries have already been held, 33 candidates he endorsed won — though most were running uncontested races or were incumbents.

A real test, however, will be in South Carolina.

Last year, Rice's vote to impeach led to a big dive in his popularity among members of the SCGOP, which voted to censure his decision to express disapproval.

Meanwhile, Trump's endorsement of Fry led to an astronomical increase in fundraising and grassroots support for the state representative.

As for the 1st Congressional District, Mace, who is poised to fight for the Republican seat against Trump-backed Arrington, has been endorsed by former Gov. Nikki Haley, indicating signs of a dramatic litmus test of where voters stand when it comes to the 45th president.

This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Trump hints at running for president again in visit to SC