SC LEDE Live Taping | This Week in South Carolina

Gavin is joined by Jeffrey, Meg, and a live studio audience.


Gavin Jackson: Welcome to the   South Carolina Lede,   and This Week in South   Carolina, our crossover episode   with our live studio audience   here in Columbia   for our 50th   anniversary celebration   of South Carolina   Public Radio.   Joining me   with this wonderful crowd   is Meg Kinnard   and Jeffrey Collins   with the   Associated Press.   We're here to talk   a lot about politics,   the state assembly   and what's going   on in Columbia.   So Jeffrey, without further   ado, let's just jump   into the legislative session.   Obviously, we're taping   this on May 6.   We're gonna time travel a bit   with this TV episode,   because the session will   play out this week. This will   air later on Friday evening but tell us what   we can expect in this   final week of the   session, Jeffrey.   It sounds like abortion   is coming back up.   We saw that bill die   in the Senate.   How's it gonna play out   in the House at this point?  

Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press: We'll see how my   prediction skills work.   So, abortion will probably   if not dominate,   it'll certainly be   a key thing that happens,   and you kind of have to read   the tea leaves a little bit.   They already- it looks like   that bill that passed the   Senate earlier this year,   the heartbeat bill, you   know, the one that bans   abortion from the time cardiac   activity can be detected.   It sounds like   the House is at least   going to take that up   because a total ban   or near total ban in the   House wanted to have is   not going to work.

Gavin Jackson: Yeah.  

Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press: So at this point,   you know, it looks like that   Senate bill will end up   in committee, probably get   passed out of the House   committees and end up on   the House floor.   The key is, does...have the   House members changed it   in any way? Because if   they changed it in any way,   then the Senate is   going to have to approve.   and depending on the   changes that get made,   you know, the Senate's   margin was razor thin   to pass it in the first   place. So if any changes   get made that the you   know, the three women who   are Republicans or the   two men who are   Republicans who have opposed   the total ban don't like,   the votes may   not be there to pass it.   So, next week, it'll be   interesting to see how   all that plays out.   I suspect that's part of   the reason that next week   is not the last week   of the session.  

Gavin Jackson: I know it's hard to   really talk backwards   and forwards at the same time,   but Jeffrey,   why didn't this just happen   sooner in the session?   Right? We saw the Senate   debate that six week ban   that you were talking   the near total ban   we're talking about. They   passed their six week ban   earlier in session, but   why wait to this last minute?   Was it to prove a point?   Was to build pressure.   What's going on here?  

Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press: Well, as long as   we're traveling back in time,   let's go back a few years   to where the heartbeat ban   originally got passed   before the Supreme Court   overturned Roe vs. Wade.   So, when the Supreme Court   overturned Roe vs. Wade, a lot   of people in South Carolina   a lot of   Republican leadership   in South Carolina felt like they   could pass a near total ban.   If you know   well, that's the next step,   but you know, things happened   after that ruling.   I mean,   people the appetite   to totally ban abortion   suddenly wasn't there as   much as people thought,   and so, you know,   the House leadership, which   is a little more conservative,   wants that total ban,   but the Senate they can't get   the votes for it,   and so it became a game of   chicken this year, essentially,   you know...the House   passed it's near total ban,   and the Senate   passed its six week ban,   and waiting for one side   or the other to blink,   and what's happened over   the last six months is,   you know, more stricter   abortion laws have been passed,   in Florida,   which I believe is a heartbeat,   North Carolina   is 10 to 12 weeks.   It looks like that's going   to pass   through their legislature.   So suddenly,   South Carolina is at   somewhere between 20   and 22 week ban,   and we're definitely an outlier   in the southeast,   and...we're typically   not,   we're typically not at that   point in the south,   we're typically one   of the more   conservative   states in the southeast.   So that's   been one of the,   that's kind of finally pushing   this towards a resolution,   I think is   the Republican leadership   in the Senate, in the governor's   mansion, in the House,   they don't want   another, you know, six to   nine months of that kind   of 2022 week ban.   So I think there   will be a resolution.   We'll just have to see   how it works out.  

Gavin Jackson: But again, if   they don't pass that bill,  at the end of   session this week,   like we're talking about   looking ahead,   then they can't come back unless   the governor calls them back,   because that's not going to be   in the sine die resolution   which stipulates what they   can do in the off season.  

Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press: Right. and   that's...another thing   that's going to   happen this year,   that had happened a long time.   They aren't passing   a sine die resolution,   which the sine die is   kind of like the   blueprint for what they   can talk about when the   regular session is over.   Typically, they'll put a   few things in there,   like we're going to talk   about this one issue   and about the budget,   but if there's not   a sine die passed,   which like I said,   hasn't happened this century   in South Carolina,   then the governor   is the only one   that can call them back.   and then when   he calls them back,   it's wide open to anything.   So you know, if   you read the tea leaves   and kind of look at things,   it sounds like they don't have   enough time next week   to finish abortion and some   other things.   So I suspect   you'll see the governor   call them back into session,   and in fact,   almost like almost   like a tied football game.   We'll have overtime.   Well, in other words   next week,   we'll come back in   it'll probably be fairly   regular like a regular week.   They'll deal with   the abortion if they can   or whatever other   things they have,   and then maybe there's some   budgets things that get   dealt with, but it sounds   like they're going to   wrap up their work   by the end of the month,   but we'll have   that extra time.   So Thursday is not   the end of the session.  

Gavin Jackson: Spoiler alert,   but Jeffrey, let's talk   about some things that   have happened.   We saw the governor sign   the education scholarship   trust fund or voucher   bill into law this past week.   Tell us about that.   That was a long time coming.   A big win for Republicans   in the state.   What does that bill do?   What does that law do,   I should say   and who does it benefit?  

Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press: What the   bill does, is it allows   public money to be spent   on private school tuition,   on books, on technology,   things like that,   and it's capped at   eventually at 15,000 students.   It'll start off   at 5000, and there's also   an income level that you know,   that you get to and it was like,   ...if you make too much,   you can't get to it.   Eventually, though,   the income level   will go up   to about $120,000,   but this will allow in three   years 15,000 students   across state to go to   private schools and try,   and then if it works,   you'll probably see it expanded.   This has been   something Republicans   have wanted for a long time.   Mark Sanford ran on it in 2002.   First bill that-we were talking   to some Republican leaders,   they remember 2004,   being the first bill   that was introduced, there's   been three governors since then.   There has been,   you know,   four house speakers,   five education superintendents.   So it took a while,   but ultimately, they finally   were able to get it   passed this year, and   that I think, will be counted.   Republicans   certainly will count that   as one   of their biggest wins.  

Gavin Jackson: Yeah, and   especially for Ellen Weaver,   the new   Superintendent of Education,   That's a big   one for her too,   but we saw that bill,   die last year too, surprisingly.   So, what kind of had to get   worked out for that to become,   I guess, to get to the   governor's desk this year?  

Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press: Yeah, that was   that was a very big surprise,   one of the   biggest surprises of last year,   but I just think in   the end,   there was some worry about   accountability,   whether or not that there   need to be testing done,   that the students that were   getting these vouchers   should they be tested,   and things of that nature,   and I just it was   one of those deals where   sometimes in South   Carolina legislation,   it just needs like a little   tweak and maybe one more year   gives people under   gives people a little   emphasis to it. I did   note that, you know,   it originally passed the House.   The Senate changed it some,   but the House   didn't change it   because I didn't think they-   They didn't want   to send it back to the Senate   to give it any chance.   I mean, that's   another South Carolina thing.   A lot of times,   sometimes you take 80%   of what you want, or 70%   of what you want,   just because you don't want to   end up in the same place again.  

Gavin Jackson: Yeah, good getting in   the way of the perfect   or perfect getting in the way   of the good.   Sticking with teachers,   sticking with education,   we did see that teacher   paid time leave   was also a big bill moving.   Is that going   to the governor's desk yet?   I know, it just got   through the Senate.   It's kind of

Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press: Yes, it   should. I think they made   this minor change, but   there's those every   indication it's passing,   you know, almost   unanimously, if not   unanimously.   So, yes, it will probably get   on the governor's desk,   but certainly before   the end of the month,  

Gavin Jackson..that's six   weeks for teachers   if they adopt or if they have a   child, just parental time off.  

Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press: Right, and it kind of,   fits a little,...   odd loophole they had,   because state employees   got that last year. They passed   that for all state employees,   but teachers   are a different group.   They're state employees, but   they're considered different.   So, they had to   come back around,   and the six weeks is one of   the longest amounts   of leave time in the   southeast.   So it is a,   it is an impressive win   for state employees   and teachers.  

Gavin Jackson: ...then when we   talk about the budget,   we're talking about teachers,   talking about pay raises too.   What's the budget   looking like right now, Jeffrey?   The Senate got it through,   sent it back to the House.   Any big changes there?   Anything that people   should maybe   be paying attention to with   what's going on, because we   have so much money we're   about to get, I think   more money announced from the   state economist as well,  

Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press: Like, sacks of   money. I mean,   it's amazing for somebody who   sat through, you know,   the recession in 2008   and budgets that were   barely in the single   digits are billions.   I mean, they- this digit   budget is 12, 13,   depending on how you want to   look at it, about $13 billion.   One of the big things state   raises for all state employees.   They've been trying to   catch up salaries   for teachers and state   employees, that didn't,   they didn't get raises   when times were a little   more lean over the past   decade. So that was a big one.   Honestly, they're   kind of both in the same place.   I mean, the one   biggest difference I saw   is the Senate didn't   include money for roads   and bridges that the   House and the governor wanted.  

Gavin Jackson: Yeah.

Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press:  With that   being said, there's going   to be a meeting of the   folks that, you know,   predict how much money   South Carolina gets,   and that's on Tuesday,   and chances are, there'll be   another nine figure   addition to the budget.   I mean, you know, hundreds   of millions of dollars.   and so, those few things   that didn't get into the budget,   suddenly, they   may be able to get in there.   So, you know, it's   been a very mild budget   fight compared to other   years, and in fact,   you know, I'm not, you know,   everyone around the Statehouse   is saying   don't expect a lot of vetoes   from the governor, even.   I think everybody's very happy,   which if you have   a lot of money,   it's easy to be-   It doesn't buy happiness,   but it can rent it.      

Gavin Jackson: It can buy you a   boat.

Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press: Yeah. 

Gavin Jackson: But kind of along that   line, Jeffrey too, just talk   about some bills that didn't   really go anywhere   that you thought maybe we're   getting somewhere, i.e.   medical marijuana.   I mean, that one's supposed   to be a big one this year   for Tom Davis.   It got through the Senate last   year, died   in the House last year, was set   to like rock and roll   through the Senate this year,   and then all of a sudden...  

Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press: That was a surprise.   I mean, because   medical marijuana we look   like we're last year,   it looked like it was coming   to a vote in the House.   It passed the Senate, and   it looked like   it was coming to vote in the   House and they had a procedural   rule that I won't worry   by going into the great   details, but essentially   the speaker of the House   at the time, Speaker   Pro-Tem Tommy Pope ruled   that it was out of order   and so that killed   the bill for last year. So we   all kind of figured it   would be one of those   things that gets   into the same position this   year, but no, I mean,   the Senate had an opportunity   to place it in a spot   where they could debate   it fairly immediately,   and they didn't,   and so and took it out   of committee and put it   prominent.   So, that was kind of a surprise,   and I think everybody's still   kind of scrambling to figure out   exactly what's going on.   Tom Davis has done a   lot of work on other bills.   He's the   chief sponsor and been   fighting for medical marijuana   for going on a decade now.   So I wouldn't   be surprised if sometime   in this upcoming week,   they do something to help out   Tom's bill. The   other thing...another bill   that I've been that   I won't say I'm surprised,   but it's ended up in the same   spot as the hate crimes bill.   You know,   South Carolina and Wyoming   are the only   states in the...union   that don't have a bill   specifically making hate crimes,   enhancing penalties when you do,   when you commit a crime,   an assault, something like that,   based on   hatred of someone's race,   age, sexual orientation,   those kinds of things.   and once again, the bill   has gotten to the same place   it's gotten before.   It passes the less-   the more conservative House,   but it ends up   and then it gets through the   Senate Committees,   but it sat on the floor,   and that's been something   that's caused a lot of   friction in the Senate,   between Democrats   and Republicans.   It's really, there's, like   I said, it's one of those   undercurrent kind of   things, but there's a lot   of anger that hasn't come   on the Democratic side   that hadn't even come up   for a vote yet   that it sat on the Senate floor   for basically two years now,   and nothing.  

Gavin Jackson: That goes back   to the Senate having   that ability to block bills,   and then just use them   as bargaining chips too,   which is what we're   seeing a lot of this week,   especially  

Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press: Yes, you know,   there's this procedure   called putting your name   on a bill where   you put an objection on a bill,   and unless they're able   to get it into, like, do   some legislative maneuvering   and get it into what they   call special, you know,   special order status or   things like that,   that when someone puts an   objection on the bill,   which is very difficult   to bring up,   and so Democrats did put a bunch   of objections on bills   last week, that kind of   forces them   into bargaining situations,   maybe. Okay, well, we'll   hear this bill, if you'll   take your name on it.   It's not just Democrats   that do that.   The Hate Crime bill is-   several Republicans have put   their name on it and that-   it happens all the time.   That's one of those   legislative things, you know.  

Gavin Jackson: ...and then   when we talk about   penalty enhancements   for hate crimes,   we're also   talking about some   other penalty enhancements   when it comes to bond reform.   That was a big push for   Republicans too to get done.   Is that gonna make it   across the finish line too,   before session ends?  

Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press: Yes, both the   House and the Senate   passed their own versions   of the bond bill.   There's differences,   like one key difference   is the House bill and the one   that the governor supports   would allow somebody that   commits a violent crime   while they're out on bail   that five years added   to their sentence, why,   where the Senate took   that out and the Senate's   problem was, well,   that may or may not be   constitutional.   The constitutional question   is, Okay, so I was   in jail for an assault,   and then I committed a crime,   another assault while   then on bond,   but I get found not guilty   of the first one,   can I get five years for   something   I was never found guilty of   in the first place?   So there, you know, that's why   the Senate took that out.   Now, again,...the governor   last week was pretty adamant.   He wants some kind   of enhanced punishment.   So, the couple of lawmakers   from the House and   a couple of lawmakers in the   Senate will come together   in a conference committee   and negotiate that out.   I think that happens.   It's everyone wants it,   and it's one....   that Henry McMaster,   the governor, has been pushing   for it hard.   So I think that when you'll see  

Gavin Jackson: ...Jeffrey, before we   jump to Meg really quick,   I want to ask   you about just some   gun reform legislation too,   that might go through   and we're talking about   making sure that felons   can't carry weapons in   the state. What's going on   with all those bills   at this point?  

Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press: Well, that was another   thing that   the governor last week was very   adamant about,   that he wants a bill passed, in   some way somehow,   however it works, that it would   allow someone,   if a felon's in possession   of a gun, which is illegal,   then they would get an extra   sentence in state court.   It's a federal law, but   you know, sometimes it's   hard to kick things into   federal court, if there's   not necessarily a place   to be. It just would   be easier, like a one stop   shop, right, like if you   have a felon who has a   gun, sticks up a   convenience store, well,   you don't have to push   that into federal court,   you just have that   all done in the state court.   The other and I think   that will probably end up   happening.   It's just a matter of-   it's probably been   a lot of texting   and talk over the weekend   about how they're going to   figure that out,   but I think that's   going to end up happening.   The other interesting gun issue   is constitutional carry which   is what they call it   where basically,   anyone that could legally   have a gun could carry it   anytime, anywhere   they wanted, as long   as it was allowed. can't carry it   like in a grocery store,   or places that prohibit it,   but you could carry it anywhere.   I've been told, you know,   that bill is right now   stuck in a Senate   subcommittee.   It passed the House.   I've been told there will at   least be some efforts to try to   pull that thing up   some way, some how, because   there's a lot of Republicans   that want   that to happen.   You know, South Carolina a few   years ago passed the   open carry but you had to have   a concealed weapons permit.   So, you know, there's some   people that are like,   "Well, I think   we're okay there",   but no, I think there   will be a big push.   Now if it passes, that's more   of a coin flip, I think.  

Gavin Jackson: And again, if things   don't pass this week,   they're still alive till next   year, two year session.   That's when things get   really fun,   because it's an election year   for everyone too, so.  

Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press: Yes. Next year, 2024.   Everything stays alive until   then, so we'll see what happens.  

Gavin Jackson: It's a big election year,   isn't it Meg Kinnard, right?  

Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press: Just a little bit.  

Gavin Jackson: Yeah. So Meg,   tell us a little about   like your role at the AP.   Obviously Jeffrey covers   the State House primarily,   but you also   cover South Carolina.   You used to   cover more of it,   but now you're part   of the Washington Bureau.   Kind of give people an idea   about your role at the AP. 

Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press: Sure. Yeah. Fortunately   for me, I still get to stay   living here in South Carolina   working in South Carolina,   but I work for   Washington   for a national political unit   and national politics team.   So my focus,   especially this year,   next year is the   presidential race,   all the candidates who are   coming here to campaign   kind of keeping tabs on   what's going on both   with the Democrats and the   Republicans leading into 2024,   but I get to do all   of that for, you know,   national coverage, but still   being here in South Carolina,   where I've been   with the AP   and also been living   for 18 years.   So I feel like, you know,   it kind of gives me   a good perspective,   while I'm covering national   politics, I'm based out here   and what I like to say...   I get to live in the real world,   but still cover politics.   So I think that adds   richness to our coverage,   especially when it deals   with politicians   and issues pertinent to South   Carolina, but yeah,   that's...what I'm doing.  

Gavin Jackson: Can you tell us   who's going to win the race?  

Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press: Well, we're about to   have our big meeting to decide.   I'll make sure   to fill you all in.  

Gavin Jackson: Speaking of that,   Meg, we've been   bouncing around the state,   which is really nice.   We get to travel together.   We get to see the different   places of the state and hear   from these candidates   face to face. Big news was,   this past week, when we were   down in Charleston hearing   from Senator Tim Scott, who   made no bones about that   he will be jumping in the   race later this month.  

Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press: He just said he's gonna   have a special announcement.  

Gavin Jackson: A big major announcement,   which, you know, could be   any number of things,   but it's nice when they give   us a heads up, right?  

Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press: ...and not just surprise.  

Gavin Jackson: So kind of tell us how you   think that's gonna   affect the race. I was talking   to Nikki Haley the other day   on This Week In South Carolina.   I was trying to pin her down   about how that's gonna affect   her candidacy, because,   again, so similar   in so many ways.   How do you see   this shaping up?  

Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press: It is really   interesting to have   covered as many cycles as   we all have. I think this   is my fifth cycle,   or sixth. I don't know.   I've been covering presidential   politics since 2004,   but to be in   an early state,   obviously, there's a lot of   importance on South Carolina.   We're the first primary   in the South for Republicans.   We're the   first primary in the country   now for Democrats.   So there's a lot of interest   here anyway, but now on   top of that, we have two   homegrown candidates   who have both been in   statewide elected office   in South Carolina had   been reelected multiple times   at that level, and   are also longtime allies   and have considered each   other friends at certain   points in the past, have drawn   on the same donor base,   supporter base, even used the   same consultants for a time.   So now to   have both Tim Scott   and Nikki Haley in the race   for the GOP presidential   nomination, that's an   unprecedented event,   certainly for me as a   political reporter,   but I think all of us here   in South Carolina,   we can't help   but watch it closely.  

Gavin Jackson: So it's gonna be   a lot going on   in South Carolina, right? Yeah.   We have seen that division,   right. We've seen like   staffers, for example,   we've seen, like we've   talked about donors.   So it is interesting to see   that play out, because,   you know, money is   obviously key to this   and going the distance,   and Tim has plenty of it.   We saw the governor raise a   good bit of money,   but you got to keep raising   money to keep going the   distance to make it to   February of 2024.  

Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press: Absolutely. Money is   key, and you know,   there's obviously when   you're a candidate at any level,   particularly these   presidential candidates   that are watching,   they're getting out to a   lot of states that might   not know them, as well as   South Carolina, certainly   spending time in Iowa   and New Hampshire and the   other places that factor   in and early ways in the   nominating calendar,   but even within here in South   Carolina, there's a huge   competition for those   donor dollars,   and, frankly, to be able to   make those trips out   to other parts of the   country to keep that   campaign mechanism going,   you have to have the money,   but then it's   circular, because you   also have to be able to   show your donors that   you're a good bet,   and so they should keep giving   you money, so you can   keep making those trips.   and when you've been   drawn on in large part,   a very similar pool of   donors. That's tough,   particularly for these   two South Carolina candidates.  

Gavin Jackson: Meg, we were   talking about Nikki Haley   and her responses to a   lot of different topics,   but abortion has been a   big one, obviously.   We were just   talking about it.   We're seeing it play   out in South Carolina.   It's interesting that we are   a state we don't have a   very strong abortion law   in some respects   for folks who don't   think that we do.   She signed that 20 week bill,   that law into law when she was   in here. So what, why was   she so kind of   hard to pin down? You saw the   interview I did with her.   I was trying you want a   six week ban?   Do you want a   near total ban?   Is it okay, where we are right   now? It's hard to pin   them down. Why is that,   in your opinion?  

Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press: It's tough. I mean,  abortion is certainly   there are many issues   that are going to   play into this primary in   large roles, but abortion   is the moment right now.   Like that's just kind of   the issue dating back to   the Dobbs' decision   from the Supreme Court   last year, but certainly   within the GOP primary,  all the candidates are   kind of being asked to   put down a marker   and show, "Okay, where...   are you on this position?"   "Where do you think that   you know, the deadlines   "or any of the rules   of the road, so to speak,   "should be" and you know,   even particularly   for Nikki Haley, who had this   big abortion policy speech   that she was going   to give a couple of weeks ago,   and she did and she   gave it at a major   anti-abortion group's   headquarters in Washington,   she didn't   lay down those markers.   She didn't lay   down those deadlines.   She talked about the need for   a national consensus   on the issue, which sounds   great when you're trying   to figure out what's the   best path forward   on a difficult issue, but in a   campaign that's focused   a lot on the numbers,   the number of weeks,   the deadlines, those kinds of   things, she didn't really   put that marker down   in the sand,   and from a political policy   standpoint, again,   I'm just an observer in this   process, I'm no expert,   but when candidates do kind   of set out those concrete   deadlines and policy   positions, that gives   their opponents in the   race, a pretty specific   place to go after them,   should they so choose   a point of disagreement,   and by not doing that,   that does make it a   little bit more difficult   for other candidates in   the race to say,   Well, I disagree with her.   Well, she didn't necessarily   say explicitly where she   thinks this issue should be.   So maybe she bought   herself a little bit more time   to try to, you know,   perhaps eventually come   to a number, but like you   referenced, the governor   when she was governor did   sign, you know, a 20 to 22   week ban, depending on   how you kind of   considered the issue,   and in terms of other states   that are putting through   far more restrictive   policies lately,   that's, you know, a pretty   generous timeline.   So you know, we don't really   know where she is,   personally, if she's   changed from, you know,   back when she   was governor with 20 weeks.  

Gavin Jackson: We have about   five minutes left.   Meg, I want to talk about   some other candidate's race.   We were originally going to   have this open house   back in January, but it was   the same day as President   Trump making his   announcement,   this big swing   through South Carolina,   and we were both there, too,   but we haven't seen   the former president back in   South Carolina since.   Why is that? Do you think he's   making rounds other places?   But is it just he doesn't   feel like he needs to?   I mean, he's leading the polls   in so many places,   including South Carolina.  

Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press: Yeah, former President   Trump really has   maintained high   popularity here since   he was in office, and   certainly when he ran   two times before. So he may   be looking at South Carolina   as a place where   he does have a lot of support,   and he knows it.   He's got the governor   already vocally   supporting him, as well   as Senator Lindsey Graham   and several members   of the Congressional   delegation. So you know,   he may it's not like he's   just saying, "Oh, yeah,   "that's in my win column.   I know it", but,   perhaps focusing on some other   areas between now and then,   and honestly,   he may be letting Nikki Haley   and Tim Scott and   potentially Ron DeSantis,   also kind of, you know,   compete for whatever tier   you would consider that of the   candidate level at this point,   and then I'm sure we'll see   him back before too long.  

Gavin Jackson: Yeah, because we   also did see former Governor   Ron DeSantis, up in the   upstate in Spartanburg   a couple of days ago.   Pretty big turnout there, too.   What's your read on   that situation and his   reception so far? I mean,   he has not declared yet,   but it's anticipated they   will pretty soon.

Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press: Yeah.  

Gavin Jackson: What was your take   when we saw that crowd?  

Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press: There were certainly   a lot of people   who I think are very curious,   you know,   they've been waiting for- to see   how this campaign shakes out.   We're still very early,   even though I keep,   we've been saying that for   months, and it was   very early then,   and it's still early now,   but I think there's a high   level of curiosity   when it comes to Ron DeSantis.   and what kind of candidacy   he could put forward.   We have seen some members of   legislature saying that   they're willing to be   behind him, should he   eventually announce the   campaign that we're all   presuming is getting   ready to happen,   but especially in a state   like South Carolina   with two homegrown candidates,   as well as   former President Donald Trump   being very popular.   It's kind of a waiting game,   and people frankly,   are telling us, they really   want to hear more   from Ron DeSantis. They're   glad he made that trip,   and he came to South   Carolina and did a couple   of events, but they   really expect to see   candidates more since   this is an early primary state,   and so they're   wanting to see more   commitment from him to   spend the time here.  

Gavin Jackson: ...and we haven't   seen too many barbs being   thrown at either of   them yet. I mean,   we saw Nikki Haley kind of   saying this stuff about   Disney in Florida, and like kind   of wading into it, too,   and then, you   know, the supporters   of DeSantis kind of jumping   on too. Can we expect to see   more of that? I mean,   they're already   starting to run these   ads against each other?  

Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press: Oh, I think absolutely.   I mean, you know,   like I said, I've covered   many cycles before,   and in 2016, we saw this   in very large part, not just   with, then candidate   Donald Trump   and the other candidates,   but a lot of,   those kind of second tier   candidates kind   of arguing among themselves.   Here, we've seen that   already happening a lot,   especially with Governor   Haley's PAC,   her political action committee,   going after Governor DeSantis.   and a lot of the Disney moves.   A lot of that's   coming from her,   but it's also coming from her   PAC, and that's kind   of the role that we see these,   these political   committees kind of   playing out.   So yeah, we're definitely gonna   see more of it, for sure.  

Gavin Jackson: ...and when you   talk to folks like   we were up in, when we saw   Nikki Haley   in Greer the other day, like,   what's the vibe there?   I mean, obviously, we're again,   talking about Tim Scott.   I'm just so confused   about this lane   that they're both going to be   in, how people are   going to differentiate   between them.   What do you see being the   deciding factors   between those two, in your   opinion from what you've seen?  

Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press: I mean, it's. I think   there are a variety of things.   I think there are   some people who   would probably say they want   to see someone running for   president who has   executive experience,   and as a governor, clearly,   that's something that she   does have that he doesn't.   You know, he also hasn't been   on the international stage.   I mean, he's a senator,   and so he plays a role   in foreign policy, but he's been   focused a lot on banking,   and some other economic   development issues,   and so depending on kind of   where you see maybe those   two things factoring   together, but you know,   Senator Scott has said   that, you know, if he's   putting on a campaign,   it's going to be positive   that he's going to be   focusing on the good that   he sees that he can bring   to this race and not kind   of going after the other   candidates and his competitors,   and that can be a vibe that   people are looking for,   and frankly,   maybe hungry for   after the 2016 cycle and the   2020 cycle in a divisive   world of politics that   people are looking   for somebody   with a positive message,   maybe he's more than a guy.  

Gavin Jackson:   We all gotta stay positive.   (laughter)  

Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press: I cover politics full   time. So like, it's hard...  

Gavin Jackson: It's interesting.   Yeah, right   there, like everyone's   happy and nice right now,   but we're going to see it all.   Okay, so Meg with about   30 seconds, what are you   looking for? What should   we be watching for   in the next   couple of months   leading up to 2024?  

Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press: I think we're gonna   see more candidates getting in,   and we're   gonna see the candidates   as they all kind of like   congeal together in the race,   kind of figuring   out where their lanes   and who's going to be going   after whom, on what issue.   Abortion is clearly going   to continue to come up,   and so that's   going to, you know,   more people are going to be putting their markers down and trying to parse   through that,   but then, depending on   what's happening   with the economy and the debate   over the debt ceiling,   that's something that   candidates are certainly   going to be asked to   weigh in on and well,   how would you handle this   if you were president?   That's real world   economic politics,   that affects everybody and so   we're certainly going   to be hearing   candidates on that.  

Gavin Jackson: A lot to look   forward to, so   Luckily, we have people   to do that for us.   Jeffrey Collins, Meg Kinnard   with the AP.   Thank you guys so much.  

Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press: Absolutely.   Thank you.