“Are they splitting the vote? Yeah, they certainly are,” said Katon Dawson, a former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party who is supporting Ms. Haley. “Are they going to take any from Donald Trump? I don’t know yet.”
Mr. Trump still commands a majority share of support among Republican voters in South Carolina. He did not attend Saturday’s event, though he was invited. Neither did Mr. DeSantis, who was also invited. Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, who is still mulling a possible presidential bid and who attended the forum, told reporters on Saturday that the presence of Mr. Scott and Ms. Haley created “a little bit of a complicated arena.”
Mr. Scott has been on a weekslong listening tour through early primary states, namely Iowa and South Carolina. Outside of the requisite engagements with voters and donors, Mr. Scott has paid particular attention to faith leaders and has held a handful of listening sessions with pastors. Ms. Haley, whose campaign has boasted that she has made nearly 20 campaign stops in the month she has been a candidate, plans to visit New Hampshire later in March.
Ms. Haley and Mr. Scott are two Republicans of color in an overwhelmingly white party. Each one has used that distinction to flatten Democratic criticisms of systemic racism in America and to argue that the country remains a beacon of progress and opportunity.
“America’s not racist, we’re blessed,” Ms. Haley said, a message she has emphasized repeatedly.
Mr. Dawson, the former chairman of the state Republican Party who is supporting Ms. Haley, offered another scenario. Instead of cannibalizing each other’s voters, Ms. Haley and Mr. Scott, he said, could consolidate their resources if one of them were to suspend their presidential bid to support the other. Such a move could strengthen one contender’s odds against a higher-polling candidate, such as Mr. Trump or Mr. DeSantis.
“You team those two up on something, you got a problem,” Mr. Dawson said. “Because they like each other.”