Tim Scott, the lone Black Republican Senator in the United States, has officially joined the race for the 2024 presidential election, as reported in a filing with the U.S. election regulator on Friday. Scott’s bid for the presidency is seen as a challenging endeavor, as he aims to convey a message of unity and optimism within a party where many voters seek a more confrontational approach.
Scott, who grew up in poverty as the child of a single mother, often shares his personal journey as evidence of America’s enduring promise. In contrast to other candidates in the race, including former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Scott maintains a positive and upbeat demeanor, countering the narrative that portrays the nation as in decline and in need of rescue from a corrupt and leftist elite.
As a Black conservative in a politically divided country, Scott stands out. In the 2020 presidential election, 92% of Black voters supported Democrat Joe Biden, while 55% of white voters backed Trump. Scott has been vocal in criticizing Trump’s racially insensitive remarks and has opposed some of his judicial nominees on that basis. Simultaneously, he has accused Democrats of exploiting racial tensions for partisan advantage. Despite personally experiencing racial prejudice, Scott firmly asserts that America is not a racist country.
Scott faces an uphill battle in the race. Polling averages show that only around 2% of Republicans intend to vote for him in the primary, and his national name recognition remains relatively low. Over half of Republicans plan to support Trump, and roughly a fifth favor DeSantis, who is expected to announce his candidacy soon.
Nevertheless, Scott’s prospects may be stronger than they initially appear. He enjoys significant popularity and recognition in his home state of South Carolina, a crucial state in the Republican nominating process as it holds the third primary contest. Additionally, Scott has established strong connections with donors, including Larry Ellison, the co-founder of Oracle, who has consistently supported him and plans to continue doing so. Another Republican donor, metals magnate Andy Sabin, recently announced his shift in support from DeSantis to Scott, citing concerns about DeSantis’ electability.
Despite maintaining a consistently conservative voting record in the Senate, Scott presents himself as a compassionate conservative. He credits a fast-food franchise owner who employed him at the age of 13 with turning his life around by encouraging him to work and study. Before entering politics, Scott worked in the insurance and real estate industries. Some of the policies he has advocated for include the establishment of “opportunity zones” to revitalize underserved communities and a tax credit program to assist low-income families with children.
In 2020, Scott was entrusted by Republican leaders to develop police reform legislation following nationwide protests sparked by high-profile killings of Black individuals by the police. However, bipartisan negotiations fell apart the following year when Democrats deemed Scott’s proposals inadequate, and Scott accused them of prioritizing political gain over reaching a compromise. In recent months, Scott has been less vocal about police reform on the campaign trail, as many Republican primary voters hold mixed or hostile views toward efforts to increase law enforcement oversight.
Scott’s entry into the presidential race positions him in direct competition with Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, who launched her campaign in February. Both candidates, being natives of South Carolina, appeal to a similar base of donors and elected officials for support. Winning their home state is crucial for their respective chances of securing the party’s nomination.