Republican 2024 Hopeful Scott Eyes Debate to Electrify Campaign

US Senator Tim Scott will get his strongest opportunity yet to woo intrigued voters and donors when he takes the stage at the Republican presidential primary debate in Milwaukee on Wednesday.

(Bloomberg) — US Senator Tim Scott will get his strongest opportunity yet to woo intrigued voters and donors when he takes the stage at the Republican presidential primary debate in Milwaukee on Wednesday. 

Scott, who has already piqued the interest of key Wall Street benefactors, aims to catapult himself into the top tier of the crowded GOP 2024 field, currently led by former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, whose campaign is writhing from missteps. 

A South Carolinian and the Senate’s only Black Republican, Scott has sought to distinguish himself from rivals who paint a picture of a failing America. He’s presenting an optimistic view of the US centered on his faith, up-from-the-bootstraps story and a vision for less-divisive politics. 

Scott recently enjoyed an uptick in primary surveys. And while he’s popular within his caucus and has the highest favorability ratings in the GOP presidential field, he hasn’t mounted strong challenges to Trump and DeSantis in polls. But a seminal moment in Wednesday’s debate could bring curious donors and voters into the fold. 

“One of the big opportunities for him and one place where I think people’s opinions could turn and people could start taking a real serious look at him are the debates. Tim Scott’s really good as a debater,” said Liz Mair, a Republican strategist, who pointed to a past town-hall debate Scott did on tax reform, hosted by CNN.

Scott’s known as a prolific fundraiser, a crucial strength for disseminating his message and outlasting rivals with shallower war chests. He raised $6.1 million in his campaign’s first 40 days and ended June with $21.1 million cash on hand, thanks to money carried over from his Senate campaign.

Being the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee has given him an entree to Wall Street players. Billionaire Stan Druckenmiller, founder of Duquesne Family Office, hosted an Aug. 9 fundraiser for Scott in the Hamptons. He previously donated $150,000 to the Opportunity Matters Fund Action PAC that supports Scott. 

In a June 7 Bloomberg Invest panel, Druckenmiller explained his affinity for Scott, saying he’s probably best placed to unite the GOP.

“I love Tim Scott. I’d like him to be the next president,” he said. “Whether he has the name recognition or whether he’s too nice a guy for this fight, I don’t know — but I’m not really into dividers.” 

Blackstone Inc.’s Steve Schwarzman and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO David Solomon each donated $6,600 to Scott’s presidential effort, the maximum allowed. 

Scott’s put the largesse to use in the form of ads in early voting states. Last week, Scott’s campaign placed an $8 million ad buy, including $6.6 million for a television blitz in Iowa and New Hampshire through November.

The RealClearPolitics average of Republicans shows Scott polling sixth nationally — but in Iowa, he has seen a jolt that’s put him in third place behind Trump and DeSantis. 

Mair said that Scott has a lot of ground to make up. It’s also tougher for senators to break through in presidential contests because voters are partial to candidates with executive experience, she said. 

On the trail, Scott delivers a faith-based Horatio Alger story, the son of a single mother in North Charleston, South Carolina, who found his footing due to mentoring. Churches are a frequent campaign stop as he courts Evangelicals, a Republican bedrock. 

“He’s got the financial backing, but his background and his story is built for this,” said Gail Gitcho, a GOP strategist who worked on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

Where DeSantis has been criticized for displaying an awkwardness in retail politics and Trump, a former president, is buffered by US Secret Service agents, Scott assumes an approachable posture. 

On a sweltering Tuesday at the Iowa State Fair, the former college football player played catch with fairgoers, won carnival games and shook hands. Wearing a white baseball cap, Scott donned a red apron to grill pork chops. 

At the fair, Republican Shirley Burgess, a retired 71-year-old from Iowa’s Polk County, said she found Scott more relatable than DeSantis after they met. 

“I didn’t know anything about him. I found him very impressive. I had no idea what his background was. I’m really more aligned with some of his issues than I thought I was,” Burgess said. 

Scott’s hoping to replicate that on a grander stage Wednesday. He’s so well-liked that he has had to quell speculation that he’d make an ideal running mate. To undermine his campaign, opponents have circulated a nearly three-decade newspaper interview where Scott says he has dreamed of being vice president. 

While Trump lavishes praise on Scott, particularly for their work together on so-called Opportunity Zones in underprivileged communities, the former president, who last week was handed down his fourth indictment in as many months, hasn’t speculated about possible running mates, according to a person in Trump’s orbit. 

Jennifer DeCasper, Scott’s campaign manager, dismissed the running-mate speculation.

“He just wants to show America that he’s serious about running for president and that there’s a better option out there,” she said. 

–With assistance from Bill Allison and Laura Davison.

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