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