Tim Scott Is Suddenly a Hot Topic in GOP Field

South Carolina senator is rising in the polls and drawing donors in the 2024 race
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 24, 2023 10:10 AM CDT
Tim Scott Is Suddenly a Hot Topic in GOP Field
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Tim Scott, R-SC, speaks during the Family Leadership Summit on July 14 in Des Moines, Iowa.   (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

The two big narratives in the GOP race are that Donald Trump has cemented himself as the formidable frontrunner and Ron DeSantis is languishing. But now a third narrative is emerging, one that has South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott on the upswing. If it's true that voters seem to dislike DeSantis the more they get to know him, the opposite seems to be true of the 57-year-old Scott. Coverage:

  • Polls: Scott is rising in the polls in early-voting states—he's now consistently in third place in both New Hampshire and Iowa. In New Hampshire, one recent poll has him at 8%, behind Trump's 37% and DeSantis' 23%, while an Iowa poll has the numbers at 46-16-11.
  • 'Turning heads': An analysis by Maya King at the New York Times finds that Scott is "turning heads" of both voters and donors. (Cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder recently traveled to South Carolina to meet with him.) "He has experience, a compelling personal story, and a campaign war chest that gives him staying power in a Republican primary that so far has been a two-man race," writes King. "And among Republican voters, he is the candidate that everyone seems to like." Scott, then, seems to be "perfectly positioned" to move further up should either Trump falter or DeSantis stumble even more. "The only question is whether either moment will come."

  • One to watch: At CNN, Harry Enten has a similar analysis, observing that the senator's high favorability ratings and improved poll numbers and fundraising "suggest Scott may be the GOP candidate to watch besides the former president or Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis." Two key things in his favor: First, his campaign has deep pockets, with $21 million in cash on hand at the end of last month, behind Trump but ahead of DeSantis. Second, polls suggest he's the candidate GOP voters most want to learn more about—and his poll numbers could rise even more once they do.
  • Bracing: Rival campaigns also are taking note of the positive press and beginning to "sharpen their knives," reports Politico Playbook. Super PACs backing DeSantis and Nikki Haley have started criticizing him, and the blog thinks more opponents will hit him in particular on foreign policy (lacking experience), crime (he's been a big champion of police and criminal justice reform, which may not play well with conservative voters), and race (he called the GOP "racist," though way back back in 1995).
  • Another knock: A separate Politico profile notes that Scott is indeed regularly described as "affable" and "optimistic"—Scott likes to say his story is one of going from "cotton to Congress"—but it suggests that won't necessarily resonate with the broad GOP electorate. "I don't think there's anybody who doesn't think he's a nice guy," says Ryan Rhodes, a GOP strategist in Iowa. "But I don't believe the primary electorate believes that we can just have somebody that's going to get along with the other side in Washington."
(Read more Tim Scott 2024 stories.)

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