Articles

Tim Scott Is Up to the 2024 Presidential Primary Challenge

May 25, 2023
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Sen. Tim Scott can move a crowd. I’ve seen it more than once.

The first time was in May 2021, when Mr. Scott—who announced he is running for the GOP presidential nomination Monday—appeared at a donor appreciation conference for a Republican voter registration effort I helped organize in Texas. He was interviewed for 45 minutes by then-Rep. Kevin Brady. After a few dry minutes discussing the 2017 tax reform the two worked on, Mr. Brady shifted gears, telling Mr. Scott he wanted the audience to know the South Carolinian’s personal story as well as he did. Mr. Brady then asked the only black Republican senator when he first realized someone hated him because of his skin color.

The next 40 minutes saw a riveting exploration of Mr. Scott’s life. The son of a single mom, he grew up in his grandparents’ 700-square-foot rental house. Knowing discrimination from a young age, he became a disillusioned, angry teenager. He was saved by his faith and a mentor—the owner of the Chick-fil-A where he worked. There he learned the dignity of work, the importance of personal responsibility, and the choice he had to make between becoming bitter over what life had dealt him or striving to become better. He talked about being a Christian in a way that was sincere and humble, not showy or presumptuous.

As the interview proceeded, the crowd fell silent, every eye drawn to the stage. No one left or looked at a phone. When it was finished, the audience responded with a level of emotion I’ve rarely seen in politics. Mr. Brady told me the interview’s power came not from Mr. Scott talking about being given the American dream, but because it became clear that through struggle, hard work and love, he had achieved it.

This led to a return visit by Mr. Scott to this past February’s voter registration conference. A fellow senator, John Cornyn from Texas, did the interview, with the two focusing on the GOP’s challenges with a changing electorate.

Mr. Scott became so energized that at one point he stood up, walked off the stage and weaved his way through the crowded tables, mic in hand, preaching about the need for outreach, arguing that conservative values can find receptive hearts and minds among the young, people of color, and anyone striving to rise in life. He called on Republicans to offer a confident, optimistic agenda in which every American has a place. His walk through the hall was met with applause, laughter, head nodding and more than a few amens.

Further evidence of Mr. Scott’s ability to connect with voters was his reply to President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress—which new presidents traditionally deliver in lieu of a State of the Union address—in April 2021. Giving the opposition party’s response is usually the worst assignment in politics. A nervous, ill-prepared backbencher responding to the president within minutes generally results in an awkward speech that pales in significance to the majesty of a long-planned presidential address.

Yet Mr. Scott’s appearance was impressive. He praised Mr. Biden as “a good man” but criticized him for “pulling us further apart.” He found fault with the president’s $2 trillion spending bill, which passed on a party-line vote. He pointed to Mr. Biden’s abandonment of his decadeslong opposition to government funding of abortion. He criticized the Democrats’ refusal to consider Mr. Scott’s police-reform proposals—seemingly only because a Republican sponsored them. These actions, Mr. Scott argued, didn’t fulfill Mr. Biden’s pledge to unite the country. It’s rare that a response to a State of the Union resonates so well.

Sen. Tim Scott can move a crowd. I’ve seen it more than once.

The first time was in May 2021, when Mr. Scott—who announced he is running for the GOP presidential nomination Monday—appeared at a donor appreciation conference for a Republican voter registration effort I helped organize in Texas. He was interviewed for 45 minutes by then-Rep. Kevin Brady. After a few dry minutes discussing the 2017 tax reform the two worked on, Mr. Brady shifted gears, telling Mr. Scott he wanted the audience to know the South Carolinian’s personal story as well as he did. Mr. Brady then asked the only black Republican senator when he first realized someone hated him because of his skin color.

The next 40 minutes saw a riveting exploration of Mr. Scott’s life. The son of a single mom, he grew up in his grandparents’ 700-square-foot rental house. Knowing discrimination from a young age, he became a disillusioned, angry teenager. He was saved by his faith and a mentor—the owner of the Chick-fil-A where he worked. There he learned the dignity of work, the importance of personal responsibility, and the choice he had to make between becoming bitter over what life had dealt him or striving to become better. He talked about being a Christian in a way that was sincere and humble, not showy or presumptuous.

Read More at the WSJ

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