Billionaire and Democratic political activist Tom Steyer says he came to the first-in-the-South presidential primary state of South Carolina with the goal of disrupting the status quo. What he didn’t take into account, he told a crowded room of voters in rural Gaffney, is that not only would he have to find a large number of new supporters in order to make any real dent in President Donald Trump’s support, but he had to find a way to keep his momentum.

“We came here, we spent money, we talked to a lot of people,” Mr. Steyer said on Thursday morning, “and I think we’ve found an extraordinary new sense of hope, an extraordinary new sense of possibility.”

Over the last month, the billionaire has been running television ads and launching a statewide tour, pitching his independent candidacy as an alternative to the two big party candidates: Mr. Trump and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

The financial heft of Mr. Steyer’s organization “Better World Fund” gives the group the capacity to challenge Mr. Trump’s outsider strategy. Besides its organizing and advertising apparatus, the group has even dabbled in a volunteer push to turn out the vote for the Democratic primary.

Whether Mr. Steyer will have enough financial heft to pull off a win remains to be seen.

But his presence in South Carolina has certainly been noticed — something that, Mr. Steyer said, was not lost on the White House.

“One of the things I heard from the White House, who was aware of this campaign, was that when he saw all of our buses, just being used in the area and the volunteers that we have here, he said, ‘I don’t want you guys coming to South Carolina this year,’ ” Mr. Steyer told The Times.