Trump attended the game as a guest of Governor Henry McMaster, who succeeded Haley as governor. Accompanied by a group that included South Carolina’s senior U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, Trump was greeted by a throng of supporters en route to a private suite, signifying a strong local political presence at the event. Notably, the game involved Clemson University, where Haley, a member of its board of trustees, completed her education.
Upon Haley’s appointment as United Nations ambassador by Trump in 2017, McMaster rose to the governorship. Both Graham and Haley have been generally aligned over the years, but now, they, along with many others, support Trump, who leads significantly in Republican primary polls, both nationally and in key early states like South Carolina.
Just hours before the game began, Trump’s campaign broadcast his endorsement by a notable number of South Carolina legislators, surpassing all other candidates combined. This includes support from six state lawmakers who initially backed U.S. Senator Tim Scott before he withdrew from the presidential race.
Columbia buzzed with anticipation for Trump’s visit. Electronic billboards around the city displayed messages about Trump’s 2020 election loss and ongoing legal challenges. Meanwhile, vendors near the stadium sold Trump-themed merchandise, and some fans chanted “Let’s Go Brandon!”—a euphemism critical of President Biden—prior to Trump’s arrival.
Brandon Beach, a Georgia state senator and ardent Trump supporter, commented on the significance of Trump’s presence at the Palmetto Bowl, noting the strong connection Trump has with people in the South.