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President Donald Trump shakes hands with South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster after arriving on Air Force One at Charleston International Airport in North Charleston last year. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

COLUMBIA — President Donald Trump will visit to a high school outside Columbia and Vice President Mike Pence will speak at a college outside Myrtle Beach when they stump for Gov. Henry McMaster in the days before a tight runoff election.

The McMaster campaign released trip details for the nation's most two powerful officeholders two days after announcing the last-minute visits to aid the governor's bid to secure the Republican nomination over Greenville businessman John Warren.

Trump will speak at 6 p.m. Monday at the Airport High School gym in Cayce at a free rally less than 2 miles from where Air Force One will land.

Pence will arrive at 3 p.m. Saturday at Coastal Carolina University's arena, 11 miles from South Carolina's busiest tourist destination.

The visit comes as the governor, the primary's top vote-getter, finds himself in a tighter-than-expected contest with Warren, an unknown before entering the race in mid-February. The runoff is getting nasty as outside political groups launched attack ads at each candidate Thursday in a last-ditch effort to woo voters. 

"This raises awareness that this is not a given for McMaster," Furman University political scientist Danielle Vinson said.

But visits from the president and vice president are reminders of how political star power can sway elections in South Carolina.

Former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin held a Statehouse rally for Nikki Haley weeks before the 2010 Republican governor primary that was considered the turning point for the backbench state lawmaker's upset of three veteran politicians, including McMaster.

"This gives McMaster more news than he can generate in a week on his own," Vinson said. 

Trump and Pence's visits are rewards for McMaster's early endorsement of the president's 2016 campaign.

"Henry worked so hard & was so loyal to me that I look forward to reciprocating!," Trump tweeted Thursday.

McMaster could use the help.

Warren became the runner-up in a five candidate primary with the message of being a conservative businessman and Marine combat veteran who will change the corrupt and wasteful culture in state government created by career politicians like McMaster. The 39-year-old specialty real estate lender has been able to hire consultants and pollsters who worked with Trump's 2016 campaign and buy air time by putting $3 million of his own money into the race.

But Warren has not been able to lock down notable major support outside South Carolina beyond "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson.   

Trump and Pence are visiting areas where McMaster, a 71-year-old former attorney general and lieutenant governor, dominated Warren in the GOP primary.

Horry County, where Republican retirees helped propel Haley to the Governor's Mansion in 2010, gave McMaster his widest margin of victory over Warren on June 12. He won by more than 7,300 votes over the political newcomer, who finished third in the tourism-centric county to Mount Pleasant attorney Catherine Templeton.

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McMaster, who lives in Columbia, won Richland County by 4,900 votes over second-place Warren.

Trump and Pence are not going to the Upstate, the center of the Republican Party in South Carolina. Since Trump spoke at a campaign fundraiser for McMaster in Greenville in October, snippets of which feature prominently in the governor's ads, there was no need for a return visit, McMaster's camp said. 

"We are thrilled to be able to touch every corner of the state with Donald Trump and Mike Pence," McMaster spokeswoman Caroline Anderegg said.

On June 12, however, Warren got the upper hand in the region where he won by nearly 2,000 votes.

With endorsements from the governor race's third- and fourth-place finishers, as well as the top six finishers in an Upstate congressional primary, Warren is expected to improve on his Upstate results in the runoff.

That makes winning the Midlands, Pee Dee and Lowcountry by a wide margin crucial to McMaster.

Warren and McMaster sparred during their debate Wednesday in Newberry over who offers the best chance to follow through on White House policies. But the president has made clear who he backs on Tuesday. 

"Henry McMaster has done a great job as Governor of South Carolina," Trump tweeted Thursday. "The state is BOOMING, with jobs and new industry setting records. He is tough on Crime and Strong on Borders, Healthcare, the Military and our great Vets. Henry has my full and complete Endrosement! (sic)"

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Columbia Bureau Chief

Shain runs The Post and Courier's team based in South Carolina's capital city. He was editor of Free Times and has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Charlotte, Columbia and Myrtle Beach.