Election 2024 Scott

Republican presidential candidate South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott speaks during a town hall meeting, Wednesday, May 24, 2023, in Sioux City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

South Carolina U.S. Senator Tim Scott could be our next president.

A lot of things would have to fall into place for Scott to win the White House, but he's got a bigger head start than other Black candidates who sought this country's highest office.

Barack Obama was a first-term U.S. senator from Illinois when he announced his run for the Democratic nomination in 2007. He was 45 and began with about $15 million.

Scott, 57, has more Senate experience than Obama, and as a senator he's been a better fundraiser. He had about $22 million in the bank before he officially announced his candidacy.

Then-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley appointed Scott to the U.S. Senate seat he holds in 2013. He won a special election in 2014, a full term in 2016 and another full term in 2022. Immediately after his announcement a few days ago, Scott raised another $2 million.

He doesn't have a national profile like President Joe Biden, former president Donald Trump or Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Politically, he's probably more like Biden than his fellow GOP presidential hopefuls. He's easier to listen to, even when he says things with which we disagree.

Trump and DeSantis have campaign styles that vary from taunting to condescending, from holier than thou to beat you down. They are expected to rip each other apart as the GOP nomination campaign heats up.

Trump has a large GOP base absolutely enamored of him and blindly devoted to him. He can raise millions of dollars almost overnight.

DeSantis leads the nation's third-most-populous state — Florida has 29 Electoral College votes — where about 60% of its residents love him. Like Trump, he abhors an objective news media. Unlike Trump, his Twitter Spaces announcement was a bust. Its mere 300,000 viewers trailed the livestream birth of April the Giraffe by hundreds of thousands.

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy have also joined the Republican nomination hunt. Recent financial reports indicate that Ramaswamy had about $9.4 million; Haley had about $7.8 million; and frontrunner Trump had $13.9 million on hand.

Did I mention that Scott started with $22 million?

As in the past, GOP voters in Iowa and New Hampshire — the states with the first GOP presidential caucus and the first GOP primary, respectively — will likely decide who continues as serious candidates, along with campaign donors. The nation's only Black Republican senator has already booked television ad buys worth $6 million in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Louisiana is deep red, Red, RED. Like other red states such as Kentucky, and red-leaning states like Georgia, I think Louisiana conservatives will vote for the right conservative Black presidential candidate if they think that candidate can win and will support their values.

Black conservatives are doing better today than the days of Frederick Douglass, who got one vote at the 1888 Republican National Convention; Alan Keyes, who got one vote at the 1992 GOP convention; and Tea Party businessman Herman Cain, who dropped out before Iowa and New Hampshire.

Consider how close Republican U.S. Senate candidate Hershel Walker came winning in Georgia — largely because so many White conservatives were willing to support his buffoonery to implement their policies. Scott is a far better conservative than Walker.

Consider that Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Black Republican, won the GOP nomination for governor in his state. He's a protégé of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell; he won Trump's endorsement; and conservatives said yes. Cameron focused on core conservative values, staying close to McConnell and not being Trump. Scott is much like him.

Scott's personal story about his rise from poverty to a presidential candidacy has wide appeal. His message of hope and optimism, rather than fear and anger, also appeals to Independents and moderates in both parties. He presents a statesman-like figure even as he pitches policies that some of us find offensive. He doesn't have Obama's eloquence, but he'll improve in the coming months.

About 93% of Black voters supported Obama's re-election in 2012. Biden got 92% of that vote in 2020, according to the Pew Research Center. An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll showed Biden with a 58% approval rating among Black adults, though 90% approve of his early tenure. Only 41% of Black adults support him running again, but 55% say they'll likely vote for him over a Republican in the general election.

Clearly, most Black voters will go for Biden. But Democrats better watch Scott.

Did I say he started with $22 million in the bank?

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Email Will Sutton at wsutton@theadvocate.com, or follow him on Twitter, @willsutton.