Miami mayor visits SC as he mulls 2024 run, sees void in ‘generational leadership’

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez walks through the South Carolina State House in Columbia. He visited South Carolina on Tuesday, April 4, 2023 and Wednesday, April 5, 2023. He also recently visited Iowa and his planning a trip to New Hampshire as he mulls a 2024 presidential run.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez told The State Media Co. that he is taking it “one day at a time” as he considers whether to make a 2024 White House run.

Suarez, who spent Tuesday and Wednesday in South Carolina, visited Iowa last month and said he’s planning a trip to New Hampshire, another early voting state, later this month.

“I like to meet with the mayors who have a pretty good sense of what’s going on on the ground,” Suarez, who heads the U.S. Conference of Mayors, told The State Wednesday at the South Carolina State House.

As he mulls whether to seek the GOP nomination in 2024, Suarez has met with Hispanic groups, pastoral and business leaders and mayors. He also spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference in March in an effort to raise his national profile.

Suarez, 45, who is of Cuban American descent, says he would consider himself a next generation candidate.

Growing minority support for the Republican Party is key, he said. A 2022 Pew Research Center study found 60% of Latino adults said the Democratic Party represents their views, while only 34% of Latinos said the Republican Party represents their views. The GOP also has lost the popular vote in seven out of the last eight presidential elections, he noted.

“The void that I see is generational leadership that has a track record of success, has a vision for the future and that can articulate it in a positive fashion,” Suarez said. “I think it’s important to be able to attract minority groups to the Republican Party because the presidency comes down to several swing states. In those swing states the margins are minimal. Electoral counts change radically based on actually a small amount of votes. So I think you need to be able to appeal to people in those states that may be traditionally the party hasn’t been able to appeal to.”

So far only former President Donald Trump, former United Nations ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy have formally launched campaigns. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is on a national book tour, has made visits to Iowa and Nevada, and spoken to at least one South Carolina lawmaker ahead of a possible campaign launch. U.S. Sen. Tim Scott R-S.C., has hired staff and also has made visits to early voting states.

Doing well in South Carolina is key.

Since 1980, the winner of the Palmetto State’s Republican primary has gone on to win the GOP nomination every time, except for 2012, when Mitt Romney won the nomination but Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary.

Suarez declined to disclose how much money he’s raised, but said, “I think it would surprise people. (I’ll) leave it at that.”

According to Florida’s Division of Elections, Suarez had $4.6 million in a political committee called Miami for Everyone as of the end of February of this year. A 501(c)(4) or a social welfare organization controlled by his advisors has raised $500,000 so far in 2023.

Suarez said Wednesday that he’s doing his “due diligence” before deciding to make a White House run. He also declined to say when he might make his decision.

The first GOP presidential debate is planned for August in Milwaukee.

“I think the landscape is different today than it was a month ago and it may be very radically different in a month,” Suarez said. “So as cliche as it sounds, I’m kind of taking it one day at a time, and focusing on listening because I think that’s the most powerful thing I could do right now.”

Miami Herald reporter Joey Flechas contributed to this article.