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SC GOP plans Myrtle Beach conference in October to kick off 2024 presidential primary

Drew McKissick.jpg (copy) (copy) (copy)

South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick talks as South Carolina Republicans gather outside the offices of U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham on Oct. 8, 2019, in Mount Pleasant. The state GOP is planning a CPAC-style conference in Myrtle Beach for late October. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

COLUMBIA — The South Carolina Republican Party is preparing to host a CPAC-style conference in Myrtle Beach at the end of October, offering one of the first opportunities for potential 2024 presidential contenders to speak to a conservative crowd in the early primary state.

Billed as "The First in the South Republican Action Conference," the program is expected to feature an array of rising Republican figures from the national stage while also conducting training sessions for grassroots activists, S.C. GOP Chairman Drew McKissick told The Post and Courier.

Invitations are going out this week to "pretty much every national-level Republican you can think of," McKissick said, including former President Donald Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida.

South Carolina already has a few regular events on its political calendar that allow individual keynote speakers to address Republicans in the state as they mull possible White House bids.

Pompeo, for example, spoke at the S.C. GOP's annual Silver Elephant fundraising gala earlier in August, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is slated to headline U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan's annual Faith & Freedom BBQ in Anderson on Aug. 23.

But the newly scheduled conference will present a platform for a wider array of Republican hopefuls to appear in the state together on the same weekend.

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"It puts a spotlight on South Carolina and our role in the process," McKissick said. "It will be a cattle call for everyone who's interested in offering themselves for national leadership, and a chance for our activists to get to know them and vice versa."

At least a couple of possible presidential contenders are already well-known to South Carolina voters: Nikki Haley, who left her role as the state's governor to spend two years as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, who recently kicked off what he has said will be his final reelection campaign.

The state party's plan is to make the event a biennial occurrence every other fall, McKissick said. That means the next conference in the fall of 2023 will come right in the runup to the state's winter 2024 primary, likely attracting all of the actual candidates who are in the race at that point.

McKissick said he conservatively expects at least 600 attendees to descend on Myrtle Beach, the coastal city that has emerged as one of the state's foremost hotbeds of conservatism in recent years and could play a bigger role in GOP politics in the years to come.

"It makes the folks in Myrtle Beach happy because we'll bring a crowd there this time, a bigger crowd in 2023, and it might be possible we might land the next South Carolina presidential debate in the future in Myrtle Beach, which they would be appreciative of, I'm sure," McKissick said. "So we're working towards that."

In addition to the speaker list that's yet to be confirmed, some other details are also still in the works with announcements expected in the coming weeks, including venue and an official media partner. The dates have been set for Oct. 29-31.

Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.

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