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Trump upstages Nikki Haley on home turf of Clemson University in South Carolina

Columbia (South Carolina), Nov 27, 2023- Former President Donald Trump upstaged his nearest GOP rival for 2024 presidential candidate nominations Nikki Haley on her home turf of Clemson University during a football match with his personal appearance that received an unprecedented welcome from fans who cheered him.

When Trump first arrived at the venue, football fans gathered for the annual Palmetto Bowl, the state’s biggest sporting event of the year, could be heard chanting ‘We want Trump! We want Trump!’, media reports said.

The 77-year-old was seen lapping up the reception in fan footage from Williams-Brice Stadium, where he was aiming to upstage Republican opponent Haley on her home turf.

Haley, a former governor of South Carolina and UN Ambassador under Trump, is a Clemson alumna and trustee who was twice elected South Carolina governor. But she did not attend the event.

Trump – who was a guest of Gov. Henry McMaster, Haley’s successor – also walked out onto the field at the halftime break, which sparked a similarly rapturous reception from the home crowd, The Hill reported.

The 5-6 Gamecocks were hosting the 7-4 Tigers in the conservative-leaning state that former US President Trump won in both 2016 and 2020. While the bulk of voters in South Carolina are Republicans, USC also happens to be in Richland County, which overwhelmingly voted for his presidential rivals Joe Biden in 2020 and Hillary Clinton in 2016.

However, fans in attendance at Saturday night’s Palmetto State rivalry game were certainly pleased to see Trump, who drew cheers as he waved to the crowd from his seat before the game. His entourage on the night, which entered through a veritable tunnel of Trump supporters on its way to a private suite, also included South Carolina’s senior US Sen. Lindsey Graham, giving the former president a show of local political force at a game featuring Haley’s alma mater, Clemson, where she is also a member of the board of trustees, The Hill said.

Trump has made regular pilgrimages to college football games in recent years, attending an Iowa State game in September as well as several other SEC matchups, national championship games and Army-Navy battles during his only term in office.

As tens of thousands of Gamecock and Tiger fans gathered around the stadium on Saturday afternoon, more than a half-dozen electronic billboards around the capital city of Columbia boasted a message noting his 2020 election loss and his pending legal cases. ‘You lost. You’re guilty. Welcome to Columbia, Donald.’

Some vendors around the venue, meanwhile, hawked Trump-related merchandise, including ‘Trump 2020’ flags, from the previous election cycle. Trump hails from New York, known to favour the NFL, and did not attend a college football powerhouse (his alma mater, Penn, is in sixth place in the Ivy League at 3-4. However, he has embraced college football crowds in the South and Midwest, where he’s traditionally been received very well.

And recently, the presumptive Republican candidate for 2024 got a standing ovation at UFC 295 in New York, where he appeared next to promoter Dana White, conservative media personality Tucker Carlson, and musician Kid Rock.

He was seen talking to singer Kid Rock near the Octagon, while comedian and actor Bill Burr was also in the crowd alongside actor Jared Leto and UFC royalty, including Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier.

Trump is the front runner in the GOP nomination in all nationwide polls and still a crowd puller despite presently being embroiled in a number of legal battles, including a civil fraud trial in New York and four criminal indictments on election subversion and conspiracy to overthrow the 2020 election verdict declaring Biden as President. Haley, an Indian American, hails from Columbia. (Agency)

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