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‘Never thought this was going to happen’


LACONIA, New Hampshire — Former President Donald Trump heralded Sen. Tim Scott’s recent engagement Monday by reacting with incredulous surprise during a rally on the eve of the first in the nation primary.

“Everybody knows him and today was a big story — the biggest story out there. He’s engaged to be married,” Trump proclaimed before welcoming Scott to the podium. “We never thought this was going to happen, what’s going on?”

A lifelong bachelor, Scott (R-SC), 58, announced his engagement to Mindy Noce late Sunday. The South Carolina senator had kept his girlfriend’s identity a secret until the third GOP debate last November. He dropped out of the race shortly thereafter.

Trump welcomed three of his former 2024 presidential foes during his final New Hampshire rally before the primary election in the Margate Resort, seeking to display party unity.

Scott used his brief time behind the podium to commend Trump for presiding over low crime and inflation. He then quickly returned the mic to the 77-year-old former president.

“How many [of] y’all want me to stop talking so you can hear from your next president, Donald J. Trump. Four more years,” Scott bellowed to cheers, before yielding back to Trump.

Donald Trump jokingly expressed shock at Tim Scott’s engagement. REUTERS

Scott was the last of three former 2024 rivals Trump paraded on stage to promote Republican unity. Before him, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum gave brief stump speeches for Trump.

“You guys do your part, come out on Tuesday night, end this primary right here. Off to defeat Joe Biden in November and our best days as a nation are still yet ahead of us,” Ramaswamy implored the crowd.

“Our country was safer, and we were absolutely economically better off than we are now,” Burgum said. “We need Donald Trump. America needs Donald Trump.”

Tim Scott endorsed Donald Trump last Friday. AP

“Every day the Republican Party is becoming more and more unified and it is. You see what happened. We had a very good competitor … Ron DeSantis,” Trump said, seemingly itching to call him “DeSanctimonious,” “he fought hard and he fought well.”

Trump was buoyed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to exit the 2024 contest Sunday. DeSantis joined most of the 11 other former Republican presidential hopefuls in endorsing Trump.

“Now we’re down to two people and I think one person will be gone probably tomorrow. The other one will be gone in November,” Trump added.

Top of mind for Trump is the fact that he still needs to conquer one lingering Republican rival: his former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.

Doug Burgum praised Donald Trump’s performance during his first administration. AP

“Sadly, not everyone is willing to put our country first. Here in New Hampshire, Nikki Haley has made an unholy alliance with RINOS, Never Trumpers, Americans for No Prosperity,” Trump bemoaned, referring to the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity Action’s endorsement of Haley.

“The people behind Nikki Haley are pro-amnesty, pro-China, pro-open borders, pro-war, pro-deep state, and pro-Biden.”

Haley is facing an uphill battle against Trump.

Ironically, she had elevated Scott to senator back in 2013 during her tenure as governor. Scott endorsed Trump Friday.

On Monday, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), threw her weight behind Trump as well. Trump backed Mace’s 2022 GOP primary rival. Haley endorsed and campaigned for Mace in the 2022 cycle.

Haley’s successor, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has also endorsed Trump.

“People don’t realize I put [Haley] there because I wanted to make Henry McMaster [governor]. It’s true,” Trump quipped.

Donald Trump is the frontrunner heading into the New Hampshire primary. AP

Haley has chalked up the lack of endorsements from her home state to her hardline approach to the legislature during her time in the governor’s mansion.

South Carolina is widely regarded as the next significant race after New Hampshire, slated to take place in about a month on Feb. 24.

Between New Hampshire and South Carolina, there is also the Nevada Caucus and the Virgin Island Caucus. Haley is competing in the Nevada primary rather than the Caucus, which has the actual delegates available.

Haley has been optimistic that she can pull off an upset in the Granite State.

Nascent polling data suggests that DeSantis’ exit helped boost Trump’s standing. Trump touts 54.9% support in New Hampshire followed by Haley at 36.7%, per the latest RealClearPolitics aggregate.



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