Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina officially announced on Monday that he is running for president in 2024, putting his important campaign war chest and optimistic message to the test in a Republican primary race that has so far been former President Donald Trump’s to lose.
Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, in an announcement speech in North Charleston, balanced his faith and family history with attacks on Democratic President Joe Biden’s record.
“I am living proof that America is a land of opportunity, not a land of oppression,” Scott said in a prepared speech.
“Joe Biden and the radical left are attacking every rung of the ladder that helped me climb,” he said, “and that is why I am announcing today that I am running for President of the United States of America !”
Scott, 57, faces an uphill battle: Polls from the potential primary field show him trailing many other presidential candidates, including fellow South Carolina Republican Nikki Haley, who entered the race in FEBRUARY. Trump has easily led the pack since launching his campaign last year, with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis consistently ranking as the best alternative.
But Scott enters the race with a few key weapons in his political arsenal.
Scott is beloved among his peers, and he’s about to jump into the race on a springboard of high-profile endorsements. Sen. Mike Rounds, RS.D., last week delivered the first non-Trump approval of the 2024 cycle when he backed Scott’s impending race. Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican and the other senator from South Dakota, also endorses Scott, NBC News and other media reported Sunday.
“Tim Scott is the real deal, and he’ll make a great President of the United States,” Coin told the crowd in North Charleston before Scott took the stage.
“I don’t know about you, but I think our country is ready to be inspired again.”
Scott also holds a financial advantage over many of his competitors: his pending campaign had nearly $22 million on hand at the end of March. The senator is already using that money with a $6 million ad buy for TV and radio spots in Iowa and New Hampshire. Those ads are set to begin airing Wednesday, coinciding with Scott’s trip to those two states on his first major trip as a declared presidential candidate.
Scott’s political presence and messages, which champion the themes of unity and optimism, also contrast sharply with the strident and polarizing rhetorical approach practiced by much of the rest of the Republican field. The first GOP primary debate is scheduled for August.
“Our party and our nation stand at a time to choose,” Scott told the crowd. “Victim or victory? Grievance or greatness? I choose freedom, hope and opportunity.
As he finished his speech, Scott deviated from his prepared remarks and walked into the crowd. “This can’t be another presidential campaign. We don’t have time for that. We need a president who doesn’t just persuade our friends and base.”
“We have to have compassion for people who disagree with us,” he added.
The long-awaited campaign kickoff came three days after Scott filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission designating a lead committee for a presidential bid. He had launched an exploratory committee for a White House bid last month and has made frequent trips to key primary states.
DeSantis is expected to declare his candidacy later this week. Trump has treated the Florida governor as his main rival, virtually ignoring the rest of the GOP field as he hits his former ally with attacks.
This tactic could pay off in the short term, as recent polls show DeSantis slipping as Trump widens his lead. But the primary is still in its infancy, with more contestants including former Vice President Mike Pence expected to join in the coming weeks.
Trump also faces several major legal issues. The former president pleaded not guilty last month to falsifying business records in connection with silent money payments made before the 2016 election, a fight that has only just begun. He also faces significant additional exposure from an election interference investigation by the Fulton County District Attorney and investigations by a federal special counsel, among other threats.
In a hint at how Trump perceived Scott’s potential threat to his candidacy, the former president seized on the senator’s presidential announcement as yet another opportunity to attack DeSantis.
“Tim is a big step up from Ron DeSanctimonious, who is totally ineligible,” Trump wrote in a social media post earlier Monday.
“Good luck Tim!” Trump added.