“Do you share the vote? Yes, they definitely are,” said Katon Dawson, a former South Carolina Republican Party leader who supports Ms. Haley. “Are they going to take anything from Donald Trump? I do not know yet.”
Mr. Trump still commands majority support among Republican voters in South Carolina. He did not attend Saturday’s event, although invited. Neither did Mr. DeSantis, who was also invited. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who is still considering a possible presidential bid and attended the forum, told reporters Saturday that the presence of Mr. Scott and Ms. Haley created “a somewhat complicated arena.”
Mr. Scott was on a week-long listening tour of the early primary states, namely Iowa and South Carolina. Outside of the required conversations with constituents and donors, Mr. Scott has paid special attention to faith leaders and held a handful of listening sessions with pastors. Ms Haley, whose campaign boasts she made nearly 20 campaign stops in the month she was a candidate, plans to visit New Hampshire later in March.
Ms. Haley and Mr. Scott are two colored Republicans in a predominantly white party. Each of them have used this distinction to smooth down Democratic critiques of systemic racism in America and to argue that the country remains a beacon of progress and opportunity.
“America is not racist, we are blessed,” Ms. Haley said, a message she has repeatedly emphasized.
Mr. Dawson, the former chairman of the state The Republican Party, which supports Ms. Haley, offered a different scenario. Rather than cannibalizing each other’s voters, he said, Ms. Haley and Mr. Scott could consolidate their resources if one of them suspended his presidential bid to support the other. Such a move could increase a competitor’s odds against a higher-poll candidate like Mr. Trump or Mr. DeSantis.
“If you put the two together for something, you’ve got a problem,” said Mr. Dawson. “Because they like each other.”