Trump nominations boost early endorser’s prospects in SC governor race

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An early Donald Trump supporter could reap a political windfall from the president-elect’s nomination decisions – which are poised to help clear his path to the South Carolina governor’s mansion.

South Carolina Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster threw his support behind Trump back in January 2016, well before Trump was a sure thing in the primaries. For months, McMaster also has been one of eight names floated as potential GOP candidates for governor in 2018.

But Trump in November nominated Gov. Nikki Haley for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. If she’s confirmed, McMaster would automatically ascend to the governorship.

It gets better for McMaster. Not only would Haley’s exit presumably give him an incumbent’s edge in the 2018 election, but another one of Trump’s nominations – that of South Carolina Rep.  Mick Mulvaney – could take a key competitor in that race off the field.

Mulvaney, a conservative Republican with statewide name recognition, had been considered a top contender for governor along with McMaster. Trump, however, nominated him for White House budget director.

South Carolina radio host Josh Kimbrell thinks the impact on McMaster is no accident.

“Governor Nikki Haley’s nomination … was likely the result of Lieutenant Governor Henry McMaster’s desire to become governor,” said Kimbrell, also a Republican strategist. “McMaster’s early endorsement of Donald Trump in the first-in-the-South GOP primary put him in the rare position of being able to ask the president-elect for a favor.”

Trump won that primary.

McMaster’s office and the Trump transition team have not returned a request for comment.

Haley was nominated despite a history of friction with the president-elect. The governor endorsed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in the Republican primaries and famously sparred with Trump via Twitter after the then-presidential candidate blasted her on social media.

However, Haley was among the first potential Cabinet picks to be interviewed by Trump and his transition team following the election.

Kimbrell speculated that McMaster, with his support of Trump, “was able to fulfill his political aspirations while furthering Governor Haley’s.”

“It’s a rare win-win in South Carolina politics,” he said.

Haley’s confirmation hearing for U.N. ambassador is scheduled for Jan. 18.