ANALYSIS — Donald Trump has long praised Sen. Tim Scott, and he appears close to cashing in on that political goodwill.
The South Carolina lawmaker’s reported plan to endorse former President Donald Trump at a Friday evening rally in New Hampshire will fuel running mate speculation. Scott, perhaps the most prominent Black Republican politician on the national stage, is often mentioned on short lists of whom Trump might pick as his No. 2 in the 2024 White House race.
But Scott’s reported plan to embrace his former Republican primary rival would create an alliance from which both would benefit. A source familiar with the senator’s plans confirmed the coming endorsement.
Trump would instantly add a Black conservative voice to his team. And Scott would gain the chance to continue introducing himself to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” base, something he started doing during his own 2024 presidential bid.
Moments before Scott announced his White House bid on May 22 at Charleston Southern University, Trump posted his good wishes on Truth Social: “Good luck to Senator Tim Scott in entering the Republican Presidential Primary Race. It is rapidly loading up with lots of people.”
Trump — while also taking a swipe at the opponent seen as his biggest threat last spring, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — gave Scott a shoutout for his role in creating a federal program to invest in economically distressed areas while Trump was president: “Tim is a big step up from Ron DeSanctimonious, who is totally unelectable. I got Opportunity Zones done with Tim, a big deal that has been highly successful. Good luck Tim!”
Here are three effects of a Scott endorsement of the former president and GOP primary front-runner.
South Carolina boost
Scott backing Trump would be a major blow to former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has staked her primary bid on a strong showing versus Trump in New Hampshire propelling her into a matchup in front of Palmetto State voters on Feb. 24.
The political realm has been abuzz for weeks about Haley “surging” in the Granite State, with one recent poll putting her within striking distance. Other surveys released this week, however, showed Trump maintaining a double-digit lead there.
Then-Gov. Haley appointed Scott to a vacant Senate seat in 2012 and an endorsement from him could have given Haley’s bid a late shot of Scott’s signature upbeat and optimistic brand of conservatism. That might have appealed to some of the independent voters who can cast ballots in the GOP primary on Tuesday.
It also could have helped her in their shared home state, where Trump holds a commanding lead (57.4 percent to 25.8 percent) over Haley, according to an average of polls tabulated by FiveThirtyEight.
Scott’s 2024 campaign struggled to gain much traction with Republican voters. He never polled above single digits and was unable to mount a serious challenge to Trump. Other former 2024 GOP primary combatants who have dropped out sounded critical tones about Trump during their bids and afterward.
But as a candidate and since dropping out himself, Scott has not echoed former New Jersey Gov. Christie or former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson in saying Trump should not be elected for a second time.
Scott is not the first Palmetto State senator-who-would-be-president to back Trump. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was among Trump’s most vocal detractors during the 2016 election — but he now is one of the former president’s biggest supporters and occasional golfing partner.
President Joe Biden and Trump appear headed for a rematch of their 2020 race, but something appears to be different this time.
Minority voters have been telling pollsters they are frustrated with Biden, for various reasons. Biden felt it necessary to hold a campaign event this month at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Biden spent much of his time discussing white supremacists such as Dylann Roof, a white gunman who killed nine Black members of the church in 2015. He also touted his economic policies, contending they have helped Black Americans.
Sixty-three percent of Black registered voters told USA Today and Suffolk University pollsters for a survey released Jan. 1 that they backed Biden given a choice between him, Trump and a third-party candidate. Asked only about a two-way race between Biden and Trump, the incumbent’s support from Black voters rose to 72 percent.
But in 2020, Biden was backed by 87 percent of Black voters. Among Hispanic voters, the poll found Biden trailed Trump in a two-way race, 44 percent to 41 percent — a huge drop from the 65 percent of the group that backed Biden in 2020 (to Trump’s 32 percent).
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., recently said some Black members of Congress are frustrated with Biden’s reelection campaign because its “tent” includes too few minority staffers and senior officials. He said minority lawmakers have expressed to Biden campaign officials that to understand the needs of those communities, they need such representation inside the campaign apparatus.
“That diversity of talent is, I think, what will be Biden’s formula for victory,” Thompson said. “All right, is this the universe, or how do we need to expand it so that all of the [Democratic] universe is included?” he asked rhetorically. “And, I think, a lot of us will promote expanding the universe.”
With Black voters among those groups miffed with the 46th president, Scott could be deployed by Trump’s campaign to try luring them to the side of the 45th.