Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) is finding success wooing his Senate GOP colleagues to his side for a possible 2024 presidential run, with a number of his fellow senators personally encouraging him to get in the race.
Of roughly a dozen Senate Republicans The Hill interviewed, three — Sens. John Thune (S.D.), Mike Rounds (S.D.) and John Cornyn (Texas) — said they have outright encouraged Scott to run for the White House, while two others — Sens. Kevin Cramer (N.D.) and Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) said they’ve talked with him behind closed doors about his potential run. Almost every other senator spoke glowingly of the South Carolina Republican and indicated they hope he runs or believe he would make a top-level candidate.
“I think he’d be a great candidate. I’m excited about it. I’ve been encouraging him,” Thune told The Hill. “I think he’s getting a lot of encouragement from his colleagues. He’s really well thought of and respected and I think he’d be a really interesting candidate for president, and in a field that kind of could be fairly open.”
“[I] told him to let me know when he wants to come to Northwest Iowa. It’s right next to South Dakota and I tell him I’ll come out for him or against him — whichever helps him the most,” Thune said with a laugh.
Scott is considered an influential member of the chamber on a number of subjects, including on financial matters as ranking member on the Senate Banking Committee and on criminal justice and policing. Multiple senators also lauded his leadership qualities and believe that his voice would be particularly resonant now.
Along with Thune, Rounds is one of Scott’s biggest cheerleaders in the upper chamber and says he will back him if he launches a bid.
“Tim has got a great personal story. His background shows he’ll work very, very hard. … He cares about other people, and he has a tendency to bring in a circle of friends and advisers that he can depend on, but give him good advice,” Rounds said in a brief interview. “I’ve simply offered to him that I would really look forward to seeing him toss his hat into the right.”
Scott on Tuesday gave the latest hint of what’s to come as he announced plans to visit Iowa, New Hampshire and his home state of South Carolina next week. The plans come on the heels of other 2024 maneuvers for Scott, who has hired staff and appeared at a number of related events last month, including the Palmetto Family Council forum and the American Enterprise Institute’s annual summit in Sea Island, Ga.
“I think he’d be a terrific president,” said Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.), the No. 3 Senate Republican. “To me, he’s Ronald Reagan, morning in America, optimistic, the country of opportunity.”
A source familiar with Scott told The Hill that he is nearing a decision on 2024 plans.
Scott is also highly thought of by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), having been the GOP’s lead negotiator on policing reform and one of the foremost figures involved in the 2017 tax reform package. One GOP strategist close to McConnell said that the leader “thinks the world of Tim Scott and would certainly wish him the best in whatever he wants to do.”
The main question surrounding Scott remains his chances at making a dent in the 2024 field and whether his “happy warrior” mentality is a fit at a time when anger remains prevalent throughout the GOP base. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), a friend of Scott’s, believes that his chances could hinge on that issue.
“Americans always want change — always. We always want something new and fresh. … But we alternate between arsonists and carpenters,” Lankford said. “They have very different techniques on how they change things. … So we’ll see where everybody is as far as the electorate.”
Scott, who is likely one of the only Senate Republicans to enter the race, has made splashes in each of the last two presidential contests. He delivered a widely-hailed speech at the 2020 Republican National Convention in support of Trump and stumped for Rubio across New Hampshire and South Carolina in 2016.
The Florida senator told The Hill that Scott would make a “strong candidate,” while others who worked on his 2016 operation argued that he was among their most effective surrogates.
“Crowds responded better to him than just about anybody else,” said Alex Conant, Rubio’s communications director on the campaign. “Being a warm-up act for Rubio was a tough gig because Marco gave such a great speech, but Tim Scott got the crowd fired up.”
“Voters respond to authenticity, and Tim Scott is the most authentic politician you’ll ever meet,” Conant added.
It is a fully uphill climb for Scott, however, as Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) dominate early surveys. Nevertheless, operatives believe there is a lane for Scott to carve out.
With Trump and DeSantis likely to spend much of their time hammering each other and occupying the “grievance” lane in the primary, they believe there is room for candidates like Scott and former Vice President Mike Pence to operate. That is especially the case in places like Iowa and South Carolina where voters of faith are squarely in their wheelhouses.
“There’s a long road ahead that’s going to create multiple openings and it’s all about who’s going to be in that mix and who’s the guy,” one GOP operative said. “DeSantis and Trump are going to beat the s— out of each other. Iowa’s a slow build, and you don’t pop in Iowa until you pop.”