Two days after a debate performance that failed to impress, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) was back in the Granite State, meeting voters one-on-one and sharing his optimistic brand of Republicanism.

Stopping at Robie’s Country Store in Hooksett, Scott told NHJournal the most important part of his debate performance was his closing statement.

“Anyone from anywhere in this nation can rise to a place where they have an opportunity to serve as the president of the United States. It speaks to the transformation that’s happening in our nation,” Scott said. “I’m very thankful to have a story that starts with a miserable beginning, but because we’re Americans, has a chance to shine through and leads, at last, to becoming president of the United States.”

Hooksett GOP Chair Alyssa Ehl speaks with GOP presidential candidate Sen. Tim Scott at Robie’s Country Store on Aug. 25, 2023.

Scott’s campaign also released a TV ad Friday targeting New Hampshire, focused on the chaos at the U.S.-Mexico border and its connection to fentanyl deaths and rising crime.

“Biden’s liberal policies aren’t compassionate, they’re tragic,” Scott says in the ad.

Scott was also asked about the debate during an interview with New Hampshire radio host Jack Heath earlier that morning. He called it a “food fight” that failed to advance the Republican agenda.

“Instead of talking about issues that are important to the American people… instead of having a conversation about the devastation of Bidenomics and the loss of $10,000 of spending power, I look over [the debate stage] and saw a show.

“Good for the media, good for Joe Biden, bad for everyday Americans,” Scott added.

According to a press release, Scott’s visit is part of “his post-debate early state swing to New Hampshire, Iowa, and his home state of South Carolina.” Most political analysts see the Scott campaign focusing on Iowa, with its influential population of evangelicals and social conservatives, instead of the much more secular New Hampshire.

“Watch for Scott to play the evangelical card in Iowa — where it can work — and then try in New Hampshire — where it doesn’t,” said GOP strategist Pat Griffin. “Looks to me like Scott feels he can play the faith card in Iowa, skip New Hampshire, and then head home to South Carolina and try to win there.”

Scott is polling in third place in Iowa in the widely-respected Des Moines Register poll, while he has consistently been in fourth or fifth place in New Hampshire. Post-debate polling by Ipsos found just 38 percent of respondents rated his performance as “excellent or good,” far below the ratings for former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (50 percent), entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy (55 percent), and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (58 percent). An unscientific survey of more than 200 NHJournal readers found Scott’s support fell from nine percent to three percent before and after the debate.

Hooksett Republican Don Winterton speaks with GOP POTUS candidate U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) at Robie’s Country Store

Voters at Robie’s, a local institution that first opened in 1822 and recently re-opened under family ownership, had positive comments about Scott and his campaign.

“Oh, I could vote for him. I think he’s a very personable individual. I like his demeanor,” one Hooksett Republican told NHJournal.

Hooksett resident Don Winterton told NHJournal he was impressed by Scott, with whom he talked briefly. Asked what he said to the candidate, Winterton replied, “Stay above the fray.”

Scott got a less warm welcome when he stopped at The Windmill diner in Concord. According to multiple media reports, he was asked about his refusal to stand up to former president Donald Trump by David Coffey, a 79-year-old.

“You don’t stand up to Trump; how are you going to stand up to the president of Russia and China?” Coffey asked.

Scott insisted he had, in fact, taken on Trump,

“I was one of the few people that actually stood up against those major issues, whether it was Charlottesville or other major challenges he had. I’m the guy that stood up and talked about the disagreements that we had.”

Coffey told a reporter afterward that he didn’t hear what he wanted from Scott, “but he’s got a nice presence to him.”

But “nice” won’t cut it, said GOP strategist Michael Dennehy.

“First and foremost, Tim Scott needs a clear message which makes the case for why he is different than the other candidates. He got totally lost in the debate on Wednesday because there is no answer to the question, ‘Why Tim Scott?’ We don’t know why Tim Scott is running.

“Once he determines the why, he needs to aggressively sell it. Spend more time meeting voters in the state,” Dennehy added.

“Finally, he has one more chance to make an impact in the debates. If he performs in September like he did on Wednesday, then he will likely be taken off the consideration list for voters.

“If he doesn’t get in the game and put up some good numbers, he will quickly be sidelined for good.”