Scott's Team Sets a Positive Tone for 2024. Will the Party Go With It?

Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, two days after announcing a presidential spot committee, took his message to friendly territory.

After greeting supporters on Friday at Alex's Restaurant, a A Charleston-area diner, the senator pitched his candidacy to a group of donors at a private retreat that spanned two days at an upscale hotel near the heart of downtown Charleston.

Among the most pressing questions of his supporters at the retreat — both longtime supporters and newcomers alike — is how his message, at this stage of a mostly positive, Bible-backed respect for America's future, might play into what many hope to be a Republican. spicy one. main president.

Mr. Scott defended his strategy, according to two people who attended the retreat, saying he would take a kill-them-with-kindness approach, and he stated that positivity was at the heart of his personality and the potential of his campaign. But, he adds, he will be able to defend himself if he has to face negative attacks.

The assembled group, a mix of South Carolina-based donors and national funders committed to Mr. Scott, left the two-day event on Saturday afternoon apparently in favor of his potential presidential bid. The challenge now is getting a wider Republican audience to follow suit.

“I've never seen him do anything so offensive that would annoy anyone,” said Jim Morris, a Charleston-based retiree who attended Mr. Bar's restaurant visit. Scott on Friday. Mr Morris said he had yet to decide who he would support in the Republican primary but criticized the widening party infighting.

“The party needs to reunite a bit,” he said. “We don't have to be the same, but we don't have to hate each other.”

Should he officially begin the presidential campaign, as is widely expected, Mr. Scott will face an uphill battle for the Republican nomination. Public opinion polls show that former President Donald J. Trump retained a majority of the party's base, with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis controlling most of the rest. And although Mr. Scott has the advantage of too much name recognition in this must-win state, he still has to battle for support from donors and voters with another South Carolina powerhouse, former Governor Nikki Haley, who has declared her candidacy.

But the senator will enter the presidential primary with a financial advantage: He has about $21.8 million in his Senate campaign account. A number of high-profile Republican donors, including tech magnate Larry Ellison, have given to super PACs that support him.

Mr. Scott, the son of a single mother and grandson who was forced to drop out of elementary school to pick cotton, has made his compelling personal story a feature of his public speeches and interviews. He often cites his background to highlight the rise he believes is only possible in America.

“It's a blessing to come from a state like South Carolina, where a child who grew up in a single-parent household mired in poverty could one day even think about becoming president of the United States,” he told reporters Friday. “Only made in America is my story.”

However, the history and positive message of Mr. Scott sometimes seems at odds with the moods of many in his party. Mr Trump, long known for creating derogatory descriptors of his rivals, is going after Democrats and Republicans alike. Super PACs supporting Mr Trump's campaign have spent nearly $4 million on television ads — most critical of Governor DeSantis — in the past three weeks, according to ad tracker AdImpact. PAC Mr DeSantis has returned fire, running an ad showing the former president joining Democrats in supporting gun control.

“Negative people are the loudest people,” said Kathy Crawford, 67, an independent voter and lifelong Charleston resident who said she would support Mr Scott in the Republican primary if he ran. Voters, he said, “want to bring the country back together, and they want a positive message.”

And Mr Scott's message could resonate with a key audience in the primary Republican Party: conservative evangelical Christians. Mr. Scott has spent considerable time focusing on evangelical voters on his tours of the early key states, frequently meeting with small groups of religious leaders in between quasi-campaign stops. His public statements are often peppered with quotes from the Bible. And in a video announcing his presidential exploratory committee, he vowed to “defend the Judeo-Christian foundations our nation built and protect our freedom of religion.”

Mr. Friday's restaurant appearance Outside, supporters held signs reading “Please Run 4 Presidents” and “Cotton to Congress to the White House,” in reference to his biography.

“It's always nice to come home,” said Mr. Scott was greeted with applause.

But Mr. Scott is already feeling the added pressure that comes with the prospect of becoming a presidential candidate. At stops in Iowa and New Hampshire this week, the senator did not directly answer reporters' questions about which abortion restrictions he might support as president, at one point saying he would support a ban on the procedure after 20 weeks and at another offering no clarity. replied, claiming only that he was anti-abortion.

In an interview with NBC News on Friday, he vowed to sign the “most conservative, pro-life bill” Congress passes if elected president, without giving his support by a specific time frame.

Mr Scott will be traveling to Iowa and New Hampshire again next week and told reporters he also plans to stop in Nevada in the coming weeks. When asked if he was considering a presidential campaign for the vice presidential nod – a belief widely rejected by his advisers – he dismissed the claim with an upbeat air.

“If you're going to go for it, go for it all,” he said. “Period.”