Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has started to send additional troops to the Texas border, with the offer of a thousand more, and Republicans in South Carolina prepare for the state presidential primary. 

DeSantis begins to send additional Florida troops to Texas border

It’s been an eventful week for Gov. Ron DeSantis. Several bills are now on his desk, and despite broad support from the legislature, the governor’s recent comments have cast doubt whether he’ll actually sign them.

While they wait for a signature or a veto, DeSantis is sending more troops and troopers to the southern border.

As many as 50 Florida National Guard members will leave from Plant City Friday and dozens of state troopers from Pensacola are going with them.

“This is part of a years-long effort for us to help do what the federal government has refused to do, which is to actually defend this country’s borders,” DeSantis said.

In February, DeSantis said Florida will help Texas build barricades or lay down more border wire.

“We wanna be a part of that," he said. "We think this is an American issue — partially because we should have a secure country, and partially the effects of this border invasion go to all 50 states."

The governor is offering Texas up to 1,000 troops. The offer comes as border crossings in the U.S. near a record high. Border Patrol in December reported roughly 250,000 migrant encounters.

But back in Florida, Democrats are calling the move a wasteful political stunt.

This mission, they say, is all about DeSantis and his dream of running for the White House.

“There’s so much to focus on here at home," Florida House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell said. "We don’t need a governor who is continuing to focus on his own ambitions and just leaving Floridians behind."

Not only that, Florida Democrats say no state should send their troops down south. The border, they say, is federal business. 

South Carolina GOP primary could reveal clear winner

Saturday is the Republican Presidential Primary in South Carolina.

And even though Nikki Haley is a former governor of the state, she is not expected to beat former President Donald Trump.

Nevertheless, she is pledging to stay in the race for the foreseeable future.

Hundreds of people lined up for hours in Rock Hill to hear Trump speak. Even as the former president faces a laundry list of legal troubles, his support remains strong going into the primary.

“He’s been through a lot and he keeps going," South Carolina resident Joe Kilpatrick said. "He’s a true patriot. Best president in my lifetime." 

“When he was president in 2020, he made everything better," resident Katie Henson claimed. "And now, Biden, it’s going down the toilet."

Haley has been criss-crossing the state, arguing Trump and Biden are too old and that Trump is too chaotic to run the country, but Trump fans disagree.

“I’ve always known the older, the wiser," Latosha Parker said. "Age is nothing but a number. We need Nikki Haley to say what she’s going to bring,” 

Something Haley does have is a pitch that is appealing to former Trump supporters who are exhausted by his unending legal troubles.

In a call with reporters Friday, Haley’s campaign manager Betsy Ankney cited a Marquette Law School poll that found Haley would beat Biden by 16 percentage points but Trump would beat him by 2 points, within the margin of error. Ankney also rattled off the lengthy list of Republican election defeats since, she said, the “luster wore off” of Trump following his 2016 victory.

“We know that the math is challenging,” Ankney said. “This has never just been about who can win a Republican primary. This battle is about who can win in November, defeat the Democrats and finally get our country back on track. And the reality is, no matter what all-caps rants Trump goes on on Twitter about the polls, he will not defeat Joe Biden in November, and he will drag the entire Republican ticket down with him.”

Haley has shown no sign of being on the verge of bowing out. This week, her campaign announced its leadership teams in Super Tuesday primary states Michigan and Texas, and Ankney announced Friday a seven-figure TV and digital ad buy leading up to Super Tuesday, which is March 5.

Haley and the super PAC supporting her had $15 million cash on hand at the end of January, according to Federal Election Commission.

The former South Carolina governor has been attacking Trump on a number of fronts, including his court trials, his comments that he would encourage Russia to attack NATO countries that do not meet their financial obligations and his refusal to condemn Russia for the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The Trump campaign, meanwhile, has been trying to paint Haley as someone who is weak on immigration and relations with China, and who would raise taxes.

Republican strategist Rina Shah said it’s important for Haley to avoid an ugly blowout Saturday.

“The delta can’t be so vast,” Shah said. “Because if it is, then it’s almost like a repudiation of her candidacy.”

Shah added that Haley has “had her eye on the long game for months now” after receiving an influx of support from big-money donors and Americans for Prosperity Action, the political network founded by the influential billionaire Koch Brothers.

USF students volunteer in South Carolina primary

Students at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg headed to South Carolina this week to volunteer ahead of the Republican presidential primary.

The trip is part of a course called “The Road to the White House 2024.” The students applied to be in the class. Each student chose to intern with Republican candidates Donald Trump, Nikki Haley or with the South Carolina Democratic Party.

“The Democrats had their election, but now what?” asked USF St. Pete professor Judithanne McLauchlan. “They’re going to be doing their delegate selections, so these students will get the behind the scenes look at all of that process.”

The students left for South Carolina on Friday and will stay for 10 days.

“I really have no idea what the campaign is going to look like,” said student Dante Rubino, who will intern with former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign.

“I’m looking at getting on the inside track and furthering my career,” said student and veteran Steven Brown. Brown, who already works with veterans, said he plans to intern with Trump’s campaign.

While they’re in South Carolina, each student will blog about their experience.