Sen. Tim Scott kicks off 2024 presidential bid, entering GOP primary field led by Trump

Key Points
  • Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina officially announced he is running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
  • Scott enters a GOP primary field that has so far been led by former President Donald Trump, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis consistently ranking as the top alternative.
  • Scott's fellow South Carolina Republican, former governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, is already on the presidential campaign trail.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. gives remarks at his presidential campaign announcement event at his alma mater, Charleston Southern University, on Monday, May 22, 2023, in North Charleston, S.C.
Meg Kinnard | AP

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina on Monday officially announced he is running for president in 2024, putting his sizeable campaign war chest and optimistic message to the test in a Republican primary race that has so far been former President Donald Trump's to lose.

Scott, the Senate's only Black Republican, in an announcement speech in North Charleston balanced his faith and his family's story with attacks on Democratic President Joe Biden's record.

"I am living proof that America is the land of opportunity, not a land of oppression," Scott said in prepared remarks.

"Joe Biden and the radical left are attacking every rung of the ladder that helped me climb," he said, "and that is why I am announcing today that I am running for President of the United States of America!"

Scott, 57, faces an uphill battle: Polls of the prospective primary field show him trailing many other presidential contenders, including fellow South Carolina Republican Nikki Haley, who entered the race in February. Trump has easily led the pack since launching his campaign last year, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis consistently ranking as the top alternative.

But Scott enters the race with a few key weapons in his political arsenal.

Scott is well-liked among his peers, and he is poised to jump in the race on a springboard of high-profile endorsements. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., last week delivered the first non-Trump endorsement of the 2024 cycle when he backed Scott's impending run. Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican and the other senator from South Dakota, is also endorsing Scott, NBC News and other outlets reported Sunday.

"Tim Scott is the real deal, and he will make a great president of the United States," Thune told the crowd in North Charleston before Scott took the stage.

"I don't know about you, but I think our country is ready to be inspired again."

Scott also holds a financial advantage over many of his competitors: His campaign-in-waiting had nearly $22 million in cash on hand at the end of March. The senator is already putting that money to use with a $6 million ad buy for TV and radio spots in Iowa and New Hampshire. Those ads are set to start airing Wednesday, coinciding with Scott's travel to those two states for his first major trip as a declared presidential candidate.

Scott's political presence and messaging, which champions themes of unity and optimism, also stands in stark contrast to the strident and polarizing rhetorical approach being practiced by much of the rest of the Republican field. The first GOP primary debate is slated for August.

"Our party and our nation are standing at a time for choosing," Scott told the crowd. "Victimhood or victory? Grievance or greatness? I choose freedom and hope and opportunity."

As he closed out his speech, Scott departed from his prepared remarks and walked into the crowd. "This can't be another presidential campaign. We don't have time for that. We need a president who persuades not just our friends and our base."

"We have to have a compassion for people who don't agree with us," he added.

The long-expected campaign kickoff came three days after Scott filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission designating a principal committee for a presidential bid. He had launched an exploratory committee for a White House bid last month and has made frequent trips to key primary states.

DeSantis is expected to declare his candidacy later this week. Trump has treated the Florida governor as his top primary rival, virtually ignoring the rest of the GOP field as he pummels his former ally with attacks.

That tactic may be paying off in the short term, as recent polls show DeSantis sliding while Trump widens his lead. But the primary remains in its early stages, with more competitors, including former Vice President Mike Pence, expected to join in the coming weeks.

Trump also faces several major legal issues. The former president pleaded not guilty last month to charges that he falsified business records in relation to hush money payments made before the 2016 election, a fight that is just beginning to unfold. He also faces significant additional exposure from an election interference probe by the Fulton County district attorney in Georgia and federal special counsel investigations, among other threats.

In a hint at how Trump perceived Scott's potential threat to his candidacy, the former president took the senator's presidential announcement as yet another opportunity to attack DeSantis.

"Tim is a big step up from Ron DeSanctimonious, who is totally unelectable," Trump wrote in a social media post earlier Monday.

"Good luck Tim!" Trump added.