STORY: Former U.S. President Donald Trump had his first formal 2024 election campaign trail events on Saturday with stops in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
They were noticeably low-key affairs, in contrast to the loud and lively rallies with thousands of supporters that he often holds.
This was Trump with a crowd of about 200 in South Carolina's state capitol building. Despite the more muted events Trump did keep his classic bold tone, from social issues to the war in Ukraine.
"Through weakness and incompetence, Joe Biden has brought us to the brink of World War III. We’re at the brink of World War III, just in case anybody doesn’t know it. As president, I will bring back peace through strength."
"I would have peace deal negotiated within 24 hours."
Trump was once the unrivaled center of the GOP, but an increasing number of elected officials have expressed concern that he may not be able to win an election against President Biden.
In South Carolina he was flanked Governor Henry McMaster and Senator Lindsey Graham. But there were also notable absences such as six other Republican members of congress from the state, including Senator Tim Scott - who has himself been floated as a possible presidential contender.
The state's party chair was missing. A source with knowledge of the event's planning said several local legislators also skipped, over concern that showing up would be seen as an endorsement, and that Trump's team had failed to assure them that it wouldn't.