South Carolina U.S. Sen. Tim Scott made it official Monday morning, launching his long-shot bid for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
To win, he will have to navigate an increasingly-crowded field that already includes fellow South Carolinian and former Gov. Nikki Haley, not to mention frontrunner and former President Donald Trump, who holds a commanding lead in the polls. Scott is currently polling at around one percent.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is scheduled to formally enter the race on Wednesday, and former Vice President Mike Pence is all but certain to do the same soon after. Gov. Chris Sununu and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are expected to announce their decisions in the next few weeks, and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy is already in the race.
Scott appeared undaunted, giving a speech to friends and allies in North Charleston, S.C., that used his personal story as a platform for his conservative politics.
“They’re attacking our American values; our schools; our economy; our security. But not on my watch. I cannot stand by while this is done to America. She has done too much for me,” Scott said.
“Joe Biden and the radical left are attacking every rung of the ladder that helped me climb. And that is why I am announcing today that I am running for president of the United States of America,” Scott said to cheers.
Scott, 57, will be heading to Iowa on Wednesday, where his appeal to evangelical Christian voters will have a wider audience than in New Hampshire, one of the most secular states in the nation. On Thursday, he is expected in Merrimack, N.H. though details were scarce.
While the South Carolina senator made no mention of Trump, he offered a stark contrast to the former president’s combative politics and pessimistic worldview.
Scott argues his success –rising from “cotton to Congress” in a single generation as a Black man in the American South — repudiates the Democratic Party’s message of identity politics and structural racism. “They say opportunity in America is a myth and faith in America is a fraud. But the truth of my life disproves their lies,” Scott said Monday.
But Scott’s character-based, unity-driven, upbeat politics could be seen as a rejection of the Trump brand of GOP politics as well.
“Our party and our nation are standing at a time for choosing: Victimhood or victory? Grievance or greatness?” Scott asked. “I choose freedom and hope and opportunity.”
Scott is also one of the most successful fundraisers in American politics at the moment, with a war chest of more than $22 million and a $5.5 million ad buy already kicking off in New Hampshire and Iowa. Scott has the support of billionaire Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, who is reportedly planning to pour millions more into a pro-Scott super PAC, the Opportunity Matters Fund.
And another billionaire, Elon Musk, has hinted he may be a Scott backer, too. Either way, Scott will have a massive war chest to fund his campaign.
But if Trump is worried, it isn’t showing. He posted a social media message welcoming Scott into the presidential race:
“Good luck to Senator Tim Scott in entering the Republican Presidential Primary Race. It is rapidly loading up with lots of people, and Tim is a big step up from Ron DeSanctimonious, who is totally unelectable. I got Opportunity Zones done with Tim, a big deal that has been highly successful. Good luck Tim!”
How will Scott’s politics and presentation — more tent revival than town hall — play in the Granite State
“New Hampshire typically votes religion blind,” said veteran political strategist Tom Rath. “We have had Catholics, Jews, and Episcopalians win here. I cannot remember when a campaign with a strong religion-based theme has won running on that message.”
“My guess is that an evangelical-based candidacy might pull in about 20 percent in a Republican primary,” Rath said.
A longtime New Hampshire GOP operative unaffiliated with any campaign told NHJournal there could be an opening for Scott’s old-time Republicanism.
“This kind of speech is why so many people became Republicans in the 198os. After what the party has been through the past few years, it’s refreshing to hear a positive, forward-looking Reaganesque vision for our country that’s rooted in optimism and patriotism. Scott appeals to an American spirit that I hope still lives in most of us.”