Tim Scott Announces Presidential Campaign, Adds To Trump Challenger

Tim Scott, the first Black Republican to be elected to the Senate from the South since Reconstruction, announced his campaign for president Monday, bringing a positive and aspirational message to a growing field of Republicans running as an alternative to former President Donald J. Trump.

Mr Scott's decision, which followed a soft rollout in February and the creation of a scrutinizing committee in April, came this time with a signal to Republicans that he is the candidate to rally if the party wants to stop Mr Trump's nomination. . He was introduced by Republican No. 2 in the Senate, John Thune of South Dakota, and will soon begin a $5.5 million advertising campaign in the early nominating states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

“Our party and our nation stand at the time to choose: Sacrifice or victory?” he said, repeating his choice three times during a packed and boisterous morning rally at the gym of his alma mater, Charleston Southern University. “Complaint or greatness? I choose freedom and hope and opportunity.”

Long considered a rising star in the GOP, Mr. Scott, 57, entered the mainstream after raising $22 million in fundraising and having attracted veteran political operators to work on his behalf.

But his message of hope and inclusion may not resonate among a Republican base electorate steeped in Mr Trump's angry demands for revenge, and the field of Republicans hoping to take Mr Trump's nomination will grow much more crowded.

Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida and Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, are expected to enter the race in the coming days. Chris Sununu, the popular Republican governor of New Hampshire, signaled over the weekend that he will likely throw his hat in the ring too, contesting the battle for the state with the first ever Republican primary. Mike Pence, Trump's former vice president, is still considering running.

With Trump's most ardent followers unwilling to abandon their standard bearers, critics of the former president fear that more opponents will only split the anti-Trump vote and seal his victory. Having Mr Thune on stage Monday was an acknowledgment of that concern and an appeal to other elected Republicans to join Mr Scott.

“Tim Scott is the real deal,” said Mr. Thune.

Scott's campaign aides say his war chest is worth $22 million more than any presidential candidate in history. (When Mr. DeSantis announced his bid as expected, he would have more money in the pool of allies, but that kind of political money is not within campaign finance rules.) Scott's aide also said the $42 million he has raised since 2022—which most of it has been shared with other Republicans—has created a depth of loyalty that no other candidate has.

The biggest question that looms over the candidacy of Mr. Scott may be whether his positive message steeped in religiosity can attract enough Republican voters to win in a crowded primary.

One of Mr.'s rivals. Scott up for nomination is Nikki Haley, a former United Nations ambassador and governor of South Carolina who elevated her to a Senate seat in 2012. The two have shared loyalties and support within the state since Ms. February, potentially complicating their bid in the must-win early state primary.

“I believe there is room for three or four candidates” from South Carolina, Mr. Scott told conservative radio broadcaster Joey Hudson during the February interview.

Mr. Scott has consolidated the support of several top Republican donors and political consultants while touring Iowa and New Hampshire, the main early nominating states, along with South Carolina, his headquarters. Longtime political operative Rob Collins and former Colorado senator Cory Gardner, two high-profile figures in Republican politics, are leaders of their super-affiliated PAC. Last month, South Carolina's top two agents, Matt Moore and Mark Knoop, were tapped to lead the group's in-state operations.

Mick Mulvaney, a former South Carolina congressman and acting chief of staff at the Trump White House, was present at the announcement, as was Mark Sanford, the disgraced former governor of South Carolina whose political comeback was cut short by his harsh criticism of Mr. Trump. Larry Ellison, the billionaire founder of Oracle and a major Republican donor, also attended.

“I'm a huge Tim Scott fan,” said Mr Sanford.

A native of North Charleston, Mr. Scott was raised by a single mother who worked long hours as a nursing assistant to raise him and his brother. A high school car crash put a damper on his football dreams, but he attended Presbyterian College on a partial athletic scholarship before eventually studying political science at Charleston Southern.

His first foray into politics was through the Charleston County Council. After serving one term in the State House, he defeated Strom Thurmond's son and won the seat for the First Congressional District in 2010, making him the first Republican Black member of the House of Representatives from the Deep South since Reconstruction. Just 15 years earlier, he had supported Mr. Thurmond, served as co-chair of the statewide.

In his speeches, he frequently uses his biography—a story of his humble beginnings and rapid rise on the political scene—to underscore his view of America as a work in progress and a laudable work rather than an irredeemably racist nation.

“They say opportunity in America is a myth and belief in America is a fraud,” he said Monday. “But the truth of my life refute their lies!”

The significance of his position was not lost on him. After a white gunman killed nine black worshipers at Emanuel's African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, Mr. Scott condemned the act as a “hate crime” and joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers in supporting the removal of the Confederate coat of arms by Ms. state flag. As the nation reeled from the deaths of several black men at the hands of police in 2016, he gave a speech from the Senate floor detailing instances when he was racially profiled, including by the Capitol Police.

And the following year, after Mr. Trump said there were “very good people on both sides” of a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., Mr. Scott criticized his words, forcing the former president to invite senators to the White House for a meeting about it. .

Mr Scott was a leading Republican voice in the police reform negotiations following the 2020 killing of George Floyd, helping a Republican-proposed bill that called for narrow reforms but ultimately not pass. In 2017, he spearheaded the creation of the Opportunity Zone, an initiative that offers tax incentives to investors in low-income neighborhoods—many of whom are predominantly black.

However, it is not clear whether such efforts will generate additional support from black voters on the national stage. For many Black Democrats, Mr Scott's race is of little importance given his conservative voting record.

“The same black people who used to vote Republican, they are the people who will vote for Tim Scott,” said Representative Jamaal Bowman, a Democrat from New York. “The majority of black people,” he added, “wouldn't come out for Tim Scott.”

Mr. Scott has been tested as a presidential candidate. Days after starting his scrutiny committee, Mr Scott raised questions about whether he would support a federal abortion ban and did not specify the number of weeks in which he would limit access to the procedure if elected president.

Scott's entry into the race also comes amid soul-searching for the Republican Party over who will carry the mantle of the party in 2024. Trump has increased his lead in the polls even as he faces new personal and political controversies, including his indictment by a jury in Manhattan and his subsequent responsibilities in a sexual assault trial involving columnist E. Jean Carroll. Mr Scott steadfastly refuses to criticize Mr Trump directly, preferring oblique references to his own honesty.

The senator's supporters applauded the message, much of it positive and peppered with biblical references, as a welcome contrast to the slander that has characterized the national campaign.

“You've never seen him burn in a statue because of the side he took,” said Mikee Johnson, a Columbia area business owner and Scott's donor. “He's more of a person who seems to have brought a few people together.”

Mr. Johnson added, “And I love her, because that's the place to be.”

During the March presidential forum in Charleston hosted by the conservative Palmetto Christian Family Council, Mr. Scott highlighted themes likely to take center stage during his presidential campaign.

“There are two visions: One that feels like bringing us down and one that wants to restore faith in this nation,” he told the crowd after quoting the Letter to Galatians. “We believe we need more trust in America, more trust in Americans, not less.”