Scott is the first Black senator elected from the Deep South since Reconstruction and the first Black Republican to serve in the Senate since 1979. And he has carved out a role in the Senate as a conservative, yes, but also someone willing to work with Democrats — as he did on the ultimately unsuccessful attempt to pass police reform legislation earlier this year.
He looks and talks in ways radically different from those of Donald Trump. (Scott’s typical introduction: “I am a Christian who is a conservative and you may have noticed that I’m Black.”) And he has been critical of Trump, particularly on matters of race; Scott said Trump’s response to the White nationalist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 caused the then-President to compromise his “moral authority.”
Except … Tim Scott isn’t running for president in 2024. Or, at least, he’s not running for president if Trump decides to run again.
“Of course,” Scott told the Post and Courier of South Carolina when asked about whether he would support Trump in 2024. Asked about his own interest in the 2024 race, Scott noted that he is running for reelection in 2022 (he is a heavy favorite), adding: “Well, at this point, I’m not running for president at all. I’m not going to answer a hypothetical question.”
Scott’s decision to fall in line with Trump is in keeping with the general strategy of other Republicans mentioned as possible 2024 candidates.
“I would not run if President Trump ran, and I would talk to him about it,” said former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley this spring, comments that came after she drew national headlines for suggesting that the GOP had moved beyond Trump in the wake of the January 6 riot at the US Capitol. (“He’s not going to run for federal office again,” Haley predicted back then. “I don’t think he’s going to be in the picture. I don’t think he can. He’s fallen so far.”)
Florida Sen. Rick Scott, another regularly mentioned 2024 candidate, has said he is not running and that Trump “ought to do it again.” Fellow Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has pledged not to run if Trump decides to do so again, calling the billionaire businessman “the most popular and most influential Republican in America.”
This support-Trump stance is rightly read as a function of the current moment in Republican politics.
There is zero room in Trump’s Republican Party for challengers to the throne. Trump himself has actively hinted at his plans to run again as a way to freeze the 2024 field — and policed the party on the hunt for anyone who appears to be less than fully loyal to him.
“2 down, 8 to go!,” Trump said in a statement on Friday, a reference to the retirement decision by Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of 10 House Republicans to vote for his impeachment for his actions (and inaction) during the January 6 riot.
Scott, then, is simply reacting to political reality. Suggesting that he might not endorse Trump in 2024 — or, even worse, run against the former president — would undoubtedly catch Trump’s always-watching eye and open the South Carolina Republican to criticism from within the Trump-loyal wing of the GOP. (That wing, incidentally, is virtually the entirety of the Republican Party at this point.)
Plus, if Trump does run, there’s almost no way that he doesn’t win the Republican nomination. Such is his domination over the GOP. Given that, endorsing the guy who a) is giving every indication he is going to run and b) is the presumptive favorite to be the party’s nominee if he runs is a no-brainer for pols like Scott who want to make sure they keep their own favorability among the party base as high as possible.
Of course, for that segment of Republicans desperate to move the party beyond Trump in 2024, the decision of Scott to get in line is yet more evidence that the ex-president isn’t giving up his hold on the party anytime soon.