United States Senator Tim Scott has officially launched a campaign for the 2024 Republican nomination for president, joining a growing list of candidates seeking the White House next year.
Scott focused on his personal story in a speech announcing his candidacy on Monday, portraying his rise from humble beginnings to the US Senate – where he currently serves as the sole Black Republican – as evidence that America is “the land of opportunity, and not a land of oppression”.
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Scott, 57, told the story of his grandfather who was born in 1921 and was forced out of school early to pick cotton but lived on to see the senator elected to Congress.
“That’s the evolution of the country we live in: My family went from cotton to Congress in a lifetime,” he said from his home state of South Carolina.
With his announcement, Scott joins former President Donald Trump, ex-US envoy to the United Nations Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy amongst others in the race for the Republican nomination. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is also expected to launch a presidential campaign soon.
Various public opinion polls have shown Trump as the frontrunner in the Republican field with DeSantis as a clear, albeit distant, second. The primaries will kick off in Iowa early next year.
The chances for Scott and other candidates appear minimal, but with Trump facing legal trouble – including criminal charges in New York – and the elections months away, 2024 hopefuls will be looking to improve their standings.
On policy, Scott took aim at Democratic President Joe Biden, who is running for re-election, criticising his immigration approach, student loan forgiveness plan and management of US competition with China.
Scott also touched on social issues prioritised by conservatives. He voiced support for law enforcement agents, pledged to protect religious liberty against what he said was an “assault” by the far left, and vowed to reform the education system.
“I will lead a revolution for excellence in our schools – less CRT and more ABCs,” he said, referring to critical race theory, an educational perspective that looks at US history through the lens of racism.
Conservatives have been adamantly opposed to discussions focused on race in the education system, but proponents of such curriculums argue that they aim to counter institutional racism and teach an accurate version of history.
On Monday, Scott repeatedly rejected that the US is a racist country. “Our party and our nation are standing at a time for choosing victimhood or victory,” he said.
Scott did not mention any of his Republican rivals by name in his speech, but he suggested that he would be best positioned to appeal to voters outside the party.
“We need a president who persuades not just our friends and our base,” he said. “We have to do that with common sense, conservative principles, but we have to have compassion for people… who don’t agree with us.”
Scott will be looking to capitalise on the early primary in his state of South Carolina, where he may enjoy greater popularity and name recognition than other candidates – a possible advantage he shares with Haley, who previously served as governor there.
Trump, who is known for rebuking election rivals, appeared to welcome Scott’s candidacy on Monday, noting that the race is getting crowded and hitting out at DeSantis, referring to the Florida governor as “DeSanctimonious”.
“Good luck to Senator Tim Scott in entering the Republican Presidential Primary Race,” the former president wrote on his Truth Social platform.
“It is rapidly loading up with lots of people, and 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!”