DES MOINES, Iowa – As Sen. Tim Scott weighs mounting a 2024 presidential candidacy, the Republican was in Iowa on Wednesday delivering a message of “a new American sunrise,” articulating a positive vision that sets him apart from some possible rivals who have focused more on railing against cultural divides.
“I see 330 million Americans getting back to celebrating our shared blessings again, tolerating our differences again, and having each other’s backs again,” Scott said in a speech to about 100 students and curious Republicans at Drake University in Des Moines. “We need new leaders who will lift us up, not tear us down.”
If he follows through with a campaign, the South Carolinian's upbeat style could distinguish him during a GOP primary. Many of Scott's fellow Republicans who have courted Iowa's influential evangelical conservatives in recent weeks have focused on themes such as denying systemic racism in the U.S. or curbing transgender rights.
Scott, the Senate's sole Black Republican, doesn't shy away from such terrain. He has in the past railed against “woke superiority.”
But in the speech, he described a “new American sunrise. Even brighter than before.”
Such a goal requires collaboration he says is missing in government and around the country.
“I see a future where common sense has rebuilt common ground, where we’ve created real unity, not by compromising away our conservatism, but by winning converts to our conservatism,” he said.
That nod toward inclusion has generally been absent from other Republicans who have recently swung through Iowa, which is poised to hold the first contest in next year's push for the GOP presidential nomination. Shortly after launching her presidential campaign last week, Nikki Haley was in suburban Des Moines stoking contempt for “woke ideology” and arguing “a national self-loathing has taken over our country.”
Likewise, former Vice President Mike Pence, who is weighing a presidential candidacy, in Cedar Rapids last week headlined a rally to oppose an eastern Iowa school district's policy allowing transgender students to request a gender-affirming plan without their parents' knowledge.
“Across the country, parents rights are being trampled by a politically correct nanny state that's ruining our schools and telling parents they have no role in their child's education,” he said.
It's not as if Scott steered clear of similar criticism.
“If you wanted a blueprint to ruin America, you’d keep doing exactly what Joe Biden has let the far left do to our country for the last two years,” Scott said, deriding the view of U.S. history through a lens of racism and its slaveholding past. “Tell every white kid they're oppressors. Tell black and brown kids their destiny is grievance, not greatness.”
Instead, Scott used his own story, as the son of a single mother living in poverty, as the template for curing what he called “a crisis of optimism.”
“A leader with faith in America would have faith in Americans,” he said, ticking through a typically Republican-themed agenda of tax cuts, energy deregulation and religious freedom as policies, along with personal responsibility, that benefited his. “Faith in the American people means faith in freedom, free enterprise and free speech, because we are a free people."
Scott also was scheduled to headline a county Republican fundraising banquet in suburban Des Moines Wednesday. Scott has traveled often to Iowa, home of the leadoff 2024 presidential nominating caucuses, though this was his first time in 2023 and comes as he is testing potential support with speeches like Wednesday's.
Should Scott launch a campaign, he would enjoy an instant financial advantage compared to several potential opponents. Scott, in the Senate since 2012, won what he has said would be his last Senate campaign last year, and had a robust roughly $22 million in his campaign account, which could be transferred to a campaign for president.
Meg Kinnard contributed from Charleston, South Carolina.