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Updated May 19, 2023, 4:03pm EDT
politics

Tim Scott is officially running for president. Here’s his theory of the case.

Sen. Tim Scott in Manchester, NH
REUTERS/Brian Snyder
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The News

Tim Scott’s officially running for president, filing paperwork with the FEC on Friday and kicking off a process that started with a landslide November re-election that left him with nearly $22 million in the bank.

Scott’s facing an uphill battle and is currently polling at around 2% nationally. He’s also trailed Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis in polling of his own state’s early primary, where former governor Nikki Haley has been competing for home field advantage.

But his team sees a clear path to victory for the current underdog, arguing in part that he is the best messenger of the 2024 presidential candidates, that he’s the most consistently conservative of the bunch, and that he’s already compiled the resources and infrastructure needed to be successful.

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“We are the land of opportunity, not the land of oppression,” Scott told reporters in Iowa last month, sketching out the basics of his message to GOP voters.

Senior campaign officials on Scott’s team cited his record as a lawmaker as well as his high rankings from notable interest groups like the NRA as examples of his willingness to push forward conservative agendas. After his official announcement event on Monday, Scott plans to hit the ground running, with stops in Iowa and New Hampshire.

As for how he plans to beat Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis? His team is optimistic, and senior officials argued that he’s the candidate who will be seen as both garnering wins on important issues for the base and beating the Democrats on Election Day. They also plan to lean heavily on his background, rising from poverty to the U.S. Senate, and said that they found during his short exploratory committee that this type of messaging was resonating with voters across the country.

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DAVID AND SHELBY'S VIEW

Scott still has a lot to prove. He bungled some interviews after launching his exploratory committee with evasive answers on abortion, eventually endorsing a 20-week ban after previously co-sponsoring much stricter legislation. And — despite being well-liked in the Senate, where he could pick up some endorsements — Scott remains low in the polls as Trump consolidates support.

Scott’s message, delivered at campaign events where he’ll jump off the stage to get closer to his crowd, is that his background is proof that this country is the land of opportunity, not one defined by systemic racism.But he’s not necessarily alone in that lane. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley tells audiences that “this is not a racist country,” offering up her story as the daughter of Indian immigrants from a small, rural town — “a brown girl in a black and white world.” And entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy has been laser-focused on dismissing victimhood claims throughout his run for president. Both are currently polling ahead of Scott.

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Room for Disagreement

The South Carolina senator does have some major pluses in his pocket that other candidates do not. His team is launching a $6 million ad buy in various states — including Iowa and New Hampshire — next week, and with $22 million cash on hand, he’ll have no shortage of opportunities to boost his profile. Early money and a charismatic candidate seems like a strong recipe to generate a polling bounce in the states that matter, which could provide a foundation to garner more national attention.

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Notable

In an op-ed published by the New York Times, columnist Jamelle Bouie bluntly declared that Scott’s campaign “is doomed from the start.” Still, he argued that the run is “interesting” in part because Scott is effectively operating as a trailblazer as “the first Black Republican officeholder to run for the party’s presidential nomination.”

“It has essentially taken a century for someone like Scott to emerge. And his political position reflects the conditions set by the structure of Black two-party politics in the 20th century. A modern-day Republican, Scott has few Black supporters and even fewer ties to the institutions of contemporary Black politics,” Bouie wrote. “Tim Scott, whatever you think of his political views, would be a sui generis figure. Or, if you prefer, an odd man out.”

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