- Sen. Tim Scott’s presidential campaign, once considered an emerging force, has slowed in recent weeks.
- Scott tried to offer an upbeat message to voters, but Trump remains at the top of the GOP race.
- The rise of fellow South Carolina native Nikki Haley also complicated Scott’s path to the nomination.
When Sen. Tim Scott launched his presidential campaign in May, he tried to project a positive conservative message among the field of candidates seeking to challenge former President Donald Trump in the GOP primary.
The South Carolina lawmaker, who is often praised by his GOP colleagues in the Senate, has emerged from the start of his campaign as someone who can appeal to both evangelical conservatives and Main Street Republicans.
During Scott’s campaign so far, his campaign has focused heavily on winning the Iowa caucuses, and over the summer he appeared to be resisting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ second-place finish to Trump.
But Scott’s poll numbers have faltered in Iowa in recent weeks, and Republicans who disagree with Trump are increasingly looking to former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as perhaps their best bet to challenge the former president’s dominance of the race for the Republican Party.
And some of Scott’s supporters and friends are clearly noticing the change.
A top Scott supporter, who spoke to Politico anonymously, noted that the senator’s campaign team “fundamentally miscalculated what it means to run for president and generate news coverage.”
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who did not endorse Scott’s White House campaign but encouraged him to enter the race, told Politico that his fellow Republican was a “spokesman” for “Reagan’s hopeful, upbeat message.”
Cornyn acknowledged that Scott has so far failed to connect with GOP voters, a big dilemma with the Iowa caucuses less than three months away.
“I’m disappointed because he’s such a great guy and has a great message,” the Texan told the publication.
While candidates like Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy have managed to move the needle among voters with their recent debate appearances, Scott’s first pitch was not much of a buzz among party leaders and observers.
Haley’s presence in the race also seriously hampered Scott’s path to the nomination.
Since both candidates hail from South Carolina, both have been in direct competition for influential state donors as well as GOP voters intimately familiar with their personal records.
Haley appointed Scott to the Senate when she was governor, and the two have largely refrained from attacking each other in a major way.
But Haley has seen her polls rise both nationally and in the key early voting state of New Hampshire, and she has consistently led Scott among GOP voters in the lion’s share of South Carolina’s primary.
Meanwhile, Scott also had to contend with Trump and DeSantis’ operations in Iowa. The former president was disciplined for visiting the Hawkeye state despite his long-standing lead in the state polls, and DeSantis went all-out to win the January caucuses.
It remains unclear whether Scott will qualify for the third GOP debate in November — which could give him a much-needed boost — as he still needs to meet the 70,000-donor threshold set by the Republican National Committee ahead of the event.
However, campaign spokesman Nathan Brandt told Politico that the senator “will be on the debate stage in Miami.”
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