By Joseph Lord
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C.—Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) formally launched his bid for president on May 22 during an event in North Charleston, South Carolina.
In his speech, Scott, 57, drew heavily from his life story of rising from extreme poverty to becoming the GOP’s only black senator in Congress.
“Joe Biden and the Democrats are attacking every rung of the ladder that helped me climb,” Scott said. “And that’s why I’m running for president of the United States.”
His announcement places him in an already crowded field: President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are currently considered the frontrunners in the GOP primary. But other Republicans, including former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, have also thrown their hats in the ring.
Scott already has one high-value endorsement to his name: that of Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.). Thune spoke at the event, leading a prayer prior to Scott’s remarks.
“I want all of America to know what South Carolina knows,” Thune said. “And that is that Tim Scott is the real deal. And he will make a great president of the United States.
“I think our country is ready to be inspired again,” Thune said.
Thune cited Scott’s work on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a signature bill signed by Trump, as an example of his legislative accomplishments.
Scott has long been considered a prospect for president, particularly among South Carolina voters. Lines for the event stretched out the door and to the street, with hundreds of locals hoping for the chance to hear Scott’s announcement.
Many attendees said that they were supporting Scott because of his Christian values, respect for his personal story, and his optimistic attitude.
Scott’s campaign slogan, “Faith in America,” indicates the importance of this optimistic approach in Scott’s campaign.
“I just really admire his story,” one attendee said.
Another called Scott “a good Christian man doing things that should be done right.”
Rising Out of Poverty
Born to a single mother, Scott raised himself out of poverty through his mother’s encouragement. Scott has long used his own story as a case in point of the opportunity America provides, and in his May 22 speech he hit the same themes, declaring that opportunity still exists in America.
“My momma worked 16-hour days as a nurse’s aide—changing bedpans and rolling patients,” Scott said. “It was hard work. It was not glamorous.”
But, he said, “those 16-hour days put food on our table. And kept our lights on. They empowered her to move her boys out of a place filled with anger into a home full of love.”
“My mom’s work ethic taught me there is dignity in all work,” he added.
He also said that his rise out of poverty is a case in point of American exceptionalism.
“We live in the land where it is possible for a kid raised in poverty by a single mother in a small apartment to one day serve in the People’s House and maybe even the White House,” Scott said.
“They say opportunity in America is a myth and faith in America is a fraud,” he said. “But the truth of my life disproves their lies.”
Asked what sets Scott apart from the rest of the crowded GOP field, many cited Scott’s optimistic attitude, saying that they feel that the message of his personal story and his political positions are more positive than other candidates.
‘Candidate the Far-Left Fears the Most’
In the past, Scott has said that he poses a challenge to Democrats’ narrative, and he struck the same tone in his announcement, calling himself “the candidate the Far-Left fears the most.
“This is the freest and fairest land. Where you and I can go as high as our character, our grit, and our talent will take us,” Scott said. “I bear witness to that. I testify to that.
“That’s why I’m the candidate the Far-Left fears the most.”
In the past, some Democrats have dismissed Scott as “a prop,” or “a token” for his support of conservative positions, particularly on issues of taxation and police.
At another point, the term “Uncle Tom” trended on Twitter for hours in reference to Scott.
A Nation in ‘Retreat’
By his ascent from poverty, and by his position as a black conservative, Scott said, “I disrupt their narrative. I threaten their control. The truth of my life disproves their lies.”
“Our party and our nation are standing at a time for choosing,” Scott said, calling the election a choice between “victimhood or victory” and “grievance or greatness.”
“I choose freedom and hope and opportunity,” Scott said.
Scott set himself up in contrast to President Joe Biden, who he called “weak.”
“Our nation, our values, and our people are strong,” Scott said. “But our president is weak.”
Scott said that while America is not in decline, under Biden it has become “a nation in retreat.”
“Retreating from our heritage and our history,” he said. “Retreating from personal responsibility and hard work. Retreating from strength and security. Even retreating from religious liberty and the worship of God himself.”
“We are not in decline,” he added. “We’re in a Biden retreat.”
Voters Testing the Waters
Several voters who attended the rally said that they were interested in Scott, but not ready to commit to giving him their support.
Many suggested that they were at the event to “test the waters” and see where Scott stands.
One attendee said that he wasn’t committed to Scott, but nevertheless felt that he was the most electable candidate in the field right now. Asked what his most important issues were, the attendee said “electability” was near the top.
Asked about their thoughts on Haley, a well-liked former governor of the state, many attendees said that while they liked her, they felt that she could be “wishy washy” on issues.
Scott, they said, is more “consistent” in his conservative positions.
Those who were fully on board with Scott’s run said that they were supporting him because of his strong positions on national security, his Christian values, and his message. Others confessed that they found the prospect of a South Carolina-born president exciting.
‘Best Candidate For Future’
Another, a young man with a child, said that he was supporting Scott because Scott was “the best candidate for this guy’s future,” he said gesturing to the child.
Rocky Berton, who described himself as working in “public safety,” told The Epoch Times, “I’m here to support Tim Scott because I really appreciate his values.”
Asked why he was supporting Scott over other options like Haley, Berton admitted, “Well, he’s a hometown fella.”
On the other hand, Berton wasn’t entirely ready to commit to Scott. He said that while Scott “was up there with [Trump and DeSantis], and may even have the upper hand,” Berton indicated he was still considering who to give his support to.
Berton said that because of his background, he considered national security the most important issue, and suggested Scott was the strongest candidate on that issue.
Tom Clements, another attendee said that he doesn’t think DeSantis has much of a chance to win. On the other hand, he suggested that he hoped Scott became vice president rather than president.
“I think he’d be a good vice president,” Clements said.
Asked how he would compare Scott to Haley, Clements said quickly, “I like Scott much more than Nikki Haley.”
School Choice Stance
Clements cited school choice, an issue that Scott has long pushed, as one of his most important issues. Under a “school choice” or “voucher” system, students would be able to choose their school rather than be shuffled into a particular public school.
Scott has said that adopting a school choice program would enable others to emulate his rise out of poverty. Clements agreed, ruling that school choice would help black and white Americans alike to escape poverty and close the wealth gap.
Clements also cited the importance of a strong military as guiding his support for Scott.
“I don’t think we should be deleting our military, we should be building our military,” Clements said.
But ultimately, Clements echoed popular sentiment when he said he was just “testing the waters” to see where Scott stands.