Is Trump coming to the USC-Clemson football game? Signs are mounting; here’s what we know

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Traffic around Columbia’s Williams-Brice Stadium is already bad on South Carolina game days. For this weekend’s annual Palmetto Bowl, it’s looking like the congestion could be even worse.

Former President Donald Trump is widely expected to attend the University of South Carolina vs. Clemson football game on Saturday, Nov. 25.

While the Trump campaign has not officially made an announcement, many signs are pointing to a visit, and the news has been circulating as an open secret in Columbia for several days. The State has reached out to the Trump campaign.

On Monday, local TV news station WIS reported that NBC News sources had confirmed a Trump visit to the game.

Last week, student journalists from the University of South Carolina’s Carolina News & Reporter reported that Mayor Daniel Rickenmann confirmed Trump would be in Columbia, though Rickenmann told The State that “the only thing I heard is he is apparently coming to the Carolina/Clemson game.”

Officials from USC, Gov. Henry McMaster’s office and the state Department of Public Safety all have told The State they cannot confirm a Trump visit to the Palmetto Bowl.

Last week, the Department of Public Safety, which handles traffic flow and safety surrounding Williams-Brice Stadium, told The State the agency “is making preparations in the event that former President Trump makes an appearance at the upcoming Carolina vs. Clemson game scheduled for November 25, 2023.”

The Department of Public safety also referred questions to the Secret Service, which declined to comment.

The game takes place three months before the state’s First in the South Republican Presidential Primary.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who is likely to attend the game, had suggested to Trump that if he were to attend any game in the state this season it should be the annual Palmetto Bowl.

On Tuesday, Nov. 14, McMaster, a long-time Trump supporter, said the former president had a standing invitation, though at the time he did not officially confirm whether the former president would attend the Palmetto Bowl.

Whether other presidential candidates will come to the game has yet to be confirmed.

“I think it’s a good game, so exciting, I think they all ought to be here,” McMaster said.

Because the former president has Secret Service protection, he would have a motorcade bringing him to and from the stadium, which likely would lead to traffic being held up to allow the motorcade to move through the area.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Clemson graduate and current Republican White House hopeful, has not said if she will attend the game or make an appearance. Haley is a member of the Clemson Board of Trustees.

One college football game this year already has attracted presidential hopefuls. Trump, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy all attended the Iowa-Iowa State football game earlier this year to greet people in the state which holds the First in the Nation Republican Caucus.

Candidates walked around the tailgates to meet with potential voters in Ames, Iowa, home of Iowa State.

Trump attended a tailgate at a fraternity, walked through the stadium concourse and watched the game in a sky box.

Javon Harris and Morgan Hughes contributed reporting.