Will he or won’t he? Republican Senator Tim Scott is weighing a historic bid from the White House
If Republican Tim Scott decides to run for president, it could be a campaign to give conservatism a new coat of paint in the post-Donald Trump era.
The 57-year-old senator from South Carolina has not announced a 2024 White House bid, but he has teased the possibility as one of the latest big GOP faces. to make a recent pilgrimage to Iowathe state with the first Republican caucuses in the country.
While there, he talked about growing up poor and a child of segregation with a grandfather who dropped out of school in third class to pick cotton.
Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, has previously spoken publicly about the negative impact of racism in his personal life. But in Iowa, he said those circumstances didn’t stop him from eventually running for Congress as a conservative.
“I can go as high as my character, my education and my endurance will take me,” Scott said during his speech at Drake University. “I testify to that. I testify to that.”
Join the conversation about politics: Sign up for OnPolitics’ newsletter
David Oman, a former Iowa GOP chairman who attended one of the speeches, said parts of the conservative movement long for a more uplifting candidacy that Scott could deliver.
The senator’s biography, he said, contrasts with how Democrats describe the country and reminds him of a former Republican president.
“His message was spot on. I remember the ’70s and ’80s, and I could almost say it was Reagan-esque,” Oman said. “It’s sunny optimism, and he has a compelling, humble, personal story, but a very optimistic view of America’s future.”
Can a Conservative ‘Sunrise’ Beat Trumpism?
Scott said rather than compromise, the GOP should be about “winning converts.”
And he gave a subtle nod to the 40th president when he told Iowans last week how the conservative “movement can again carry 49 states and the popular vote.”
“This is what I see,” Scott added. “A New American Sunrise.”
The arc of Scott’s life story appeals to a pool of voters who could be an asset in a primary largely defined by former President Donald Trump running for re-election, Republican strategists say.
“It’s going to stand out in this field because a lot of people, especially Trump, will be eager to describe America as if it’s hell,” GOP strategist and political commentator Scott Jennings told USA TODAY.
And unlike many of the other current or potential candidates, Scott is under no obligation to defend everything the former president did or said because — he never worked for Trump.
Policy:Former Arizona AG withheld report debunking allegations of 2020 election fraud
“So if you are Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo or Nikki Haleyand you’re out there trying to convince a bunch of Trump supporters to switch, well, why would I buy Coke Zero when I can buy Coke classic,” Jennings said. “Scott doesn’t have this problem.”
Bursting the Trump-DeSantis bubble
GOP consultant Liz Mair, a former spokeswoman for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, said Scott is well-liked among right-wing activists and is recognized as one of the smarter crop of possible candidates.
But she doubts that any “kind of sunny cheerful optimism is what sells” with a base that wants to fight liberal America at the moment.
“I don’t know if they see (Scott) as soft, but I think the Republican base is pretty well convinced that the country is going to hell in a handbasket right now,” Mair said.
The big test for Scott, if he runs, she said, will be getting voters to pay attention to him. Many — especially in the right-wing media ecosystem — are ping-ponging between Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, she said.
ONE February 16 survey by Quinnipiac University showed Scott barely registering with 1% among GOP voters when asked who they supported for president, behind Haley, Pence and Pompeo.
“Anybody that doesn’t have the big broad name ID and appeal like these two, it’s going to be hard to build a campaign,” Mair said.
Scott’s money matches his moves
Along with the visit to Iowa, Scott’s money indicates that his political scope is greater than being South Carolina’s junior senator.
Since being named to the seat in 2013, he has emerged as a fundraising powerhouse, attracting mega-donors.
During the 2022 campaign, for example, Scott brought in $43.1 million for his re-election bid, according to Federal Election Commission records.
A Scott-aligned super PAC, Opportunity Matters Fund Action, has nearly matched that figure, raised about $37.3 millionaccording to OpenSecrets.
The group used that war chest to help a handful of Republican Senate candidates in the midterms by dropping millions into those races, in addition to dishing out $250,000 in digital ads promoting Scott a month after he clinched re-election.
The anti-woke black Republican?
Scott has many of the traditional conservative views on education, abortion, immigration and taxes that he touted during the Iowa trip.
And like other GOP presidential candidates, he emphasized how the country must resist the left’s “complaint” politics on cultural issues. Still, Scott has spoken about how racism has negatively affected his life.
Twice he evoked how “woke corporations” appoint themselves policymakers and that “woke prosecutors and anti-police activists” are responsible for violent crime.
But Scott has also, at various points in his career, acknowledged the existence of racial bias and the need to address it through public policy.
IN an op-ed for USA TODAY in 2021as he pursued bipartisan reform legislation in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, he spoke of being “pulled over for simply having the wrong headlight” at age 21 and how the officer called him “boy.”
Stephen Graves, a University of Missouri political science professor in the Black Studies department, said Scott’s split narrative is about establishing a brand of conservatism that appeals to white voters who are more moderate on cultural issues.
“Tim Scott really appeases the group of Republicans who understand the times we’re in and know they’re not going to win future elections in a diversified culture if they’re married to that Trump rhetoric,” he said.
Your 2024 Republican field already looks to be the most racially diverse in the party’s history with Haley and now 37-year-old entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy in the race.
Graves said it will be telling to see how the base and potential rivals will respond to Scott’s dueling views on race.
“They want a Ron DeSantis type who will stick it to the libs and all the rhetoric that goes with that,” he said.
“They’re looking for a champion.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Will he or won’t he? GOP Sen. Tim Scott inches toward White House bid