April 18, 2024
Sen. Tim Scott's (R-SC) personal story is underpinning his Republican presidential campaign as he introduces himself to the public.

Sen. Tim Scott‘s (R-SC) personal story is underpinning his Republican presidential campaign as he introduces himself to the public.

But Scott and former United Nations Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley‘s backgrounds could hinder them as much as it could help as they seek to differentiate themselves in a crowded primary field and from so-called woke liberals.


Scott, the country’s highest-ranking black Republican who announced his campaign this week, debuted a new ad in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire on Thursday that underscores his childhood as the son of a single working mother.

“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 says in the 60-second spot. “That’s why it pains my soul to see the Biden liberals attacking every rung of the ladder that helped me climb, indoctrination in our schools, inflation in our economy, crime in our neighborhoods, victimhood in our culture.

“To the radical Left that says we’re an evil declining country, I say the truth of my life disproves your lies,” he adds.

Scott’s ad echoes his announcement address last Monday at his alma mater in North Charleston, South Carolina, and comments he has made since in television interviews and on the campaign trail.

“This is insane,” the senator tweeted this week with a video of one of his Iowa events. “The radical Left thinks the only way to be successful in this country as a child of color is to be the ‘exception.’ Low expectations set by adults should NOT determine these kids’ futures.”

Scott has been amplifying his personal story more than Haley, who is of Indian descent and this cycle’s only declared woman candidate. The pair, who, along with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), were celebrated by Republicans in 2016 as the future of the party, however, both criticized those who describe the country as a “racist” nation during their respective announcement.

“Every day, we’re told America is flawed, rotten, and full of hate,” Haley said during her announcement in February. “Joe and Kamala even say America is racist. Nothing could be further from the truth. The American people know better. My immigrant parents know better. And take it from the first minority female governor in history: America is not a racist country.”

For a Scott campaign spokeswoman, the senator’s personal story is an important part of his campaign because “he is living proof that America is the land of opportunity, not a land of oppression.”

“Most recently, The View‘s Joy Behar attacked Scott’s identity saying that he does not understand what it is like to be black in America,” the spokeswoman told the Washington Examiner.

Scott and Haley are not the only minority candidates who have announced: multimillionaire entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy also has Indian heritage and conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder is black. Their campaigns combined create an interesting dynamic for the race amid Democrats’ concerns their party is losing support among some black men and Latino voters.

Some Republicans “hunger” for a minority candidate, particularly a black contender, according to George Mason University politics professor Jeremy Mayer.

“So I expect Tim Scott to benefit substantially from his race, which is not unusual in American politics,” he said. “Herman Cain and Ben Carson, two utterly unqualified presidential candidates, benefited from their race in the GOP primaries of 2012 and 2016, and did surprisingly well.

“Haley will also be able to subtly make a gender appeal,” the author of Running on Race: Racial Politics in Presidential Campaigns 1960-2000, added. “Indeed, if Trump had done just marginally better with women in 2020, he would have won. I don’t see Haley’s ethnicity playing very large in the GOP primaries, but it could play a larger role in the general election if she is the nominee or the running mate. The Asian vote is one of the most gettable right now for either party.”

Although Scott and Haley’s personal stories may not resonate with all Republican voters, Mayer noted neither of them can use their backgrounds against other candidates like Vice President Kamala Harris did against President Joe Biden on his busing record in 2019.


A CNN poll published this week found Trump is the preferred candidate for 53% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters, more than double DeSantis’s 26%. Haley and former Vice President Mike Pence, who is expected to announce his campaign in the coming days, are the first choice for 6% of conservative respondents. Scott and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have 2% support. Roughly 85% would consider Trump and DeSantis, while 61% would think about Haley, 60% Scott, and 55% Pence.

CNN’s numbers reflect RealClearPolitics‘ polling averages, which have Trump at 54% support54%, DeSantis at 21%, Pence and Haley at 5%, Ramaswamy at 3%, and Scott at 2%. Govs. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) and Chris Sununu (R-NH), in addition to Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and Elder, are all at 1%.

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