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Second SC Republican offers alternative to Trump in 2024

Republican Sen. Tim Scott greets voters after announcing at his Charleston Southern University alma mater he's running in the 2024 GOP presidential primary. May 22, 2023
Victoria Hansen
SC Public Radio
Republican Sen. Tim Scott greets voters after announcing at Charleston Southern University in North Charleston he's running in the 2024 GOP presidential primary. May 22, 2023

Sen. Tim Scott joins a growing list of GOP presidential primary contenders and is the second from South Carolina.

North Charleston, S.C.- And then there were two. A second South Carolina Republican wants to be president and take on frontrunner Donald Trump in a GOP primary that’s becoming more crowded by the day.

Sen. Tim Scott made the big announcement Monday at his alma mater, Charleston Southern University in North Charleston, and has since unleashed his first television ad as part of a $6 million campaign. The 57-year-old’s Made in America message is now airing in the key primary states of New Hampshire and Iowa.

“I rose from a child of poverty to a candidate for president of the United States because we chose patriotism over pity and to be victors, not victims,” the senator tells voters in the ad.

Scott is the only Black Republican in the U.S. Senate and says he is American made, made by the opportunities this nation afforded.

Victoria Hansen
SC Public Radio
Sen. Tim Scott addresses the media and supporters at Buccaneer Field in North Charleston. May 22, 2023.

His grandfather picked cotton. His single mother worked 16-hour days. Yet Scott went on to become the first Black Republican elected to the Senate from the South since Reconstruction.

The announcement

He rejects claims America is racist and raised eyebrows earlier this year when he announced his intent to form an exploratory committee in a video recorded at Ft. Sumter, the site of the first shots of the Civil War. This week, Sen. Scott told the North Charleston crowd he’s the candidate the far-left fears most.

“I disrupt their narrative. I threaten their control. The truth of my life disproves their lies.”

Dr. Gibbs Knotts is political scientist, author and professor who says Sen. Scott, while not well-known nationally, has a story that draws people in.

“It’s something right out of the GOP playbook. If you work hard anybody can make it in this country,” says Dr. Knotts. “It’s a key American value that a lot of people hold.”

Knotts says South Carolina finds itself in a unique position with two Republican presidential contenders taking on former president Donald Trump who was propelled by the state’s 2016 GOP primary and is still popular today.

Former governor Nikki Haley joined the race in February. She was appointed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in 2017 by then President Trump.

Haley, meantime, appointed Scott to the senate in 2012 to fill the seat left vacant by retiring Senator Jim Demint. She and Scott have been on the rise sharing similar conservative ideas and donors ever since.

“It’s just going to be fascinating to see who SC voters get behind,” says Dr. Knotts.

A new, national Morning Consult poll released Tuesday shows Trump has support from 58 percent of likely GOP primary voters, while Haley has 4 percent and Scott has 2 percent.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis officially entered the race Wednesday on Twitter, after the poll’s release, and comes in second to Trump with 20 percent. Twice impeached, Trump was recently indicted on business fraud and found liable in a sex abuse case.

This week Haley attacked DeSantis in ad that appears to show him mimicking the former president in words and body language. Trump took aim at DeSantis too on social media calling him disloyal and “in need of personality transplant”.

So far, Sen. Scott has stayed out of the fray. He told supporters in North Charleston Monday he’s running on a message of optimism and hope.

“We have to have compassion for people who don’t agree with us,” said Sen. Scott.

“We have to believe our ideas are so strong and so powerful and so persuasive that we can actually take it to the highest points in the world.”


Brian Thomas of Charleston was in the crowd and liked what he’s heard.

“A Tim Scott presidency could heal a lot of tears in this country,” said Thomas.

He left the Republican Party following the 2016 presidential election.

“It was ugly. It was hatred,” he said in a voice quivering with emotion. “They didn’t speak for me.”

Thomas is still undecided but favors Scott, Haley and DeSantis. Michelle Calhoun of Conway attended as well and said she identifies with Scott.

“I also grew up in a single mom family and I know how it is,” said Calhoun.

But will Scott’s message resonate with voters nationwide? Does it differ enough from Haley to set them apart? And what will a DeSantis run mean now that he has officially announced?

Trump, meantime, will have to juggle campaigning with a criminal trial. A New York judge just set a March trial date on those charges of fraud.

Victoria Hansen is our Lowcountry connection covering the Charleston community, a city she knows well. She grew up in newspaper newsrooms and has worked as a broadcast journalist for more than 20 years. Her first reporting job brought her to Charleston where she covered local and national stories like the Susan Smith murder trial and the arrival of the Citadel’s first female cadet.