Senator Tim Scott launches bid for 2024 Republican presidential nomination

Tim Scott formally launched his presidential campaign on Monday, joining a growing field of Republican candidates looking to capture their party’s nomination and rob Donald Trump of another opportunity to face off against Joe Biden next year.

“Under President Biden, our nation is retreating away from patriotism and faith,” Scott told a cheering crowd at Charleston Southern University in his home state of South Carolina. “Joe Biden and the radical left are attacking every rung of the ladder that helped me climb. And that is why I am announcing today that I am running for president of the United States of America.”

Related: Republican senator: Trump will lose 2024 presidential race if nominated

As the only Black Republican serving in the US Senate, Scott argued he had a unique perspective to offer on how conservative policies can best serve the American people, and he leaned into his optimistic vision for the future of the country. Scott’s mother joined him on stage at his campaign event, and he thanked her for “standing strong in the middle of the fight”.

“We live in the land where it is absolutely possible for a kid raised in poverty in a single-parent household in a small apartment to one day serve in the People’s House and maybe even the White House,” Scott said. “This is the greatest nation on God’s green Earth.”

The South Carolina lawmaker was introduced by the Senate minority whip, John Thune of South Dakota, who became the highest-ranking congressional Republican to endorse Scott in the presidential race.

“I want all of America to know what South Carolina knows and what I know because I get to see it every day in the United States Senate – and that is that Tim Scott is the real deal,” Thune said.

Scott’s announcement came three days after his team filed official paperwork with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), confirming his plans to run for the White House. Later this week, the 57-year-old senator plans to visit the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, where he has already met a number of Republican primary voters as part of his Faith in America listening tour that kicked off in February.

Scott’s team will also begin airing TV ads in Iowa and New Hampshire this week as part of a $5.5m ad buy that is scheduled to run through the first Republican presidential debate in late August.

Scott enters the race with a significant fundraising advantage over many of his primary opponents. After Scott won re-election to the Senate in November, his campaign committee still had $22m in cash on hand that can now be used to bolster his presidential candidacy. According to the FEC, Scott’s existing funds represent the largest sum of money that any US presidential candidate has ever had when launching a campaign.

Speaking to reporters last week, senior campaign officials insisted Scott’s funds would help him break out in a primary field where he has struggled to gain national recognition. The most recent Morning Consult poll showed Scott drawing the support of just 1% of Republican primary voters across the country. Even in his home state of South Carolina, which will hold its primary after Iowa’s and New Hampshire’s contests, Scott is stuck in fourth place, according to a Winthrup University survey taken last month.

The South Carolina survey showed Scott trailing behind Trump, the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, and former UN ambassador Nikki Haley. Having served as South Carolina’s governor before joining the Trump administration, Haley also enjoys a home state advantage there, further complicating Scott’s path to victory.

But Scott’s campaign advisers argued the senator’s optimistic message and compelling personal story would soon resonate with a large swath of voters. Scott was raised by a single Black mother, and his grandfather dropped out of school in the third grade to start picking cotton. Scott often summarizes his life story as “from cotton to Congress in one lifetime”, a theme he emphasized in 2021, when he was tapped to deliver the Republican response to Biden’s first presidential address to a joint session of Congress.

Viewed as a rising star in the Republican party, Scott played a central role in the congressional negotiations over criminal justice reform. After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, Scott worked with two Democratic lawmakers – Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and then representative Karen Bass of California – to try to craft a bipartisan compromise on policing reform, but the talks collapsed in 2021 without any agreement reached.

Although Scott has attempted to work across the aisle on criminal justice issues, he remains staunchly conservative on everything from gun safety to abortion access. He received an A rating from the Gun Owners of America last year, and he enjoys a voting score of 94% from the rightwing group Heritage Action, putting him 16 points ahead of an average Senate Republican.

Scott also has an A rating from the anti-abortion group Susan B Anthony Pro-Life America and has vowed to sign the “most conservative pro-life legislation” that can pass Congress if he becomes president. However, Scott has remained vague on his preferred cutoff point for banning abortion, telling NBC News last month: “I’m not going to talk about six or five or seven or 10 [weeks].”

Scott will probably face more questions from voters about his policy agenda as he hits the campaign trail this week.

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