Senator Tim Scott Jumps Into Republican Presidential Primary

Sen. Tim Scott filed paperwork on Friday morning to enter the 2024 presidential race, formalizing a campaign that has been in the works for months.

The South Carolina Republican has planned an event for a “major announcement” on Monday in North Charleston, S.C., where he will finally declare his candidacy.

The Senate’s lone Black Republican, Scott has billed his “Faith in America” campaign partly as a repudiation of the idea that systemic racism remains a force in American life.

“Joe Biden and the radical left have chosen a culture of grievance over greatness,” Scott said in a campaign video last month. “All too often, when they get called out for their failures, they weaponize race to divide us.”

Scott faces a difficult campaign for the Republican presidential nomination against fellow South Carolinian Nikki Haley and former President Donald Trump. 

Despite criminal investigations over hoarding public records and his efforts to throw out the 2020 presidential election, Trump remains a formidable Republican primary candidate, with a wide lead in many polls. 

Scott is less well known than Trump or Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, another Republican who has been laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign. 

So far, Scott has avoided criticizing his likely opponents. He has also avoided taking a firm position on abortion restrictions, an issue that has confounded the other GOP candidates as they try to mollify their anti-abortion base voters without taking positions that are unpopular with the general electorate.

This presidential candidacy has been in the works a long time. Last year Scott published a book titled “America, a Redemption Story,” fulfilling the informal requirement that all candidates for national office be published authors. 

As a senator, Scott emerged as the leading Republican voice on police reform after the 2020 murder of George Floyd spurred nationwide Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality. 

Republican leaders delegated to Scott the task of negotiating with Democrats for some sort of compromise on higher standards for law enforcement. The two sides failed to reach a deal, however, as Scott rejected Democratic demands to increase police accountability by reforming “qualified immunity,” the legal doctrine that shields government employees from having to pay money damages for misconduct. (It’s unclear how many other Republicans would have been willing to reform qualified immunity even if Scott had gone for it.) 

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) was the leading Republican voice on police reform.
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) was the leading Republican voice on police reform.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) was the leading Republican voice on police reform.

After the high-profile police killing of Tyre Nichols this year, Scott said the Democrats’ preferred bill, the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act, remained a “nonstarter.” 

“I’ve been working toward common ground solutions that actually have a shot at passing,” Scott said on Twitter in February. “Solutions to increase funding and training to make sure only the best wear the badge. Solutions that would have made a difference in places like Memphis & Kenosha.”

It’s striking that despite the apparent agreement that police departments across the country could benefit from higher standards, lawmakers couldn’t come up with even a modest compromise ― unlike the bipartisan negotiators who struck a deal on gun reform last year after high-profile mass shootings. 

Some lawmakers make up for thin records of legislative accomplishment with rhetorical bombast, but not Scott, who avoids inflammatory statements and maintains a mild disposition, often declining to speak to reporters in the hallways of the Capitol. 

“I am not really into theatrics,” Scott said on the Senate floor in 2020 during a speech lamenting that Democrats didn’t support his police reform proposals. “I don’t run toward microphones.”