COLUMBIA, SC (AP) – Republican presidential candidate Tim Scott abruptly announced on Sunday evening that he was leaving the 2024 racea development that surprised his donors and stunned his campaign staff just two months before voting began in The first Iowa Republican caucuses.
The senator from South Carolina, who took part in the race in May with high hopes, made the surprise announcement on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Night in America” with Trey Gowdy, one of his closest friends. The news was so unexpected that a campaign worker told the Associated Press that campaign staff discovered Scott was dropping out while watching the show.
“I love America more today than May 22,” Scott said Sunday. “But when I return to Iowa, it won’t be as a presidential candidate. I am suspending my campaign. I think the voters who are the most remarkable people on the planet were very clear in telling me, “Not now, Tim.”
Scott’s impending departure comes as he and the rest of the Republican field have struggled in a race dominated by former President Donald Trump. Despite four indictments and a slew of other legal challenges, Trump continues to vote well ahead of his rivals, leading many in the party to conclude that the race is effectively over, barring a stunning change in fortune.
Scott, in particular, has struggled to gain ground in the polls, despite millions spent on his name by high-profile donors. In his efforts to run a positive campaign, he was often overshadowed by other candidates, particularly on the debate stage, where he seemed to disappear as the others competed. It was unclear whether Scott would qualify for the next fourth debatewhich will require a higher number of surveys and more donors.
Scott is the second major candidate to leave the race since late October. Former Vice President Mike Pence He suspended his campaign two weeks ago, announcing at a Republican Jewish Coalition rally in Las Vegas that “it’s not my time.” Pence, however, was behind Scott in the polls and was in a much more precarious financial situation.
Scott said he would not immediately support any of his remaining Republican rivals.
“Voters are really smart,” Scott said. “The best way for me to be helpful is to not weigh in on who they should support.”
He also seemed to rule out running for vice president, saying the No. 2 spot “has never been on my to-do list for this campaign, and it’s certainly not there now.”
Scott leaves Nikki Haley, Trump’s first ambassador to the United Nations and former governor of South Carolina, as the only South Carolinian in the race. As governor, Haley appointed Scott — then newly elected to his second term in the U.S. House of Representatives — to the Senate in 2012, and the fact that both were in the 2024 race had created an uncomfortable situation for many donors and voters who have supported them over the years.
It also sparked some nasty moments on stage during the first three GOP debates, with longtime allies — who for a time had also shared political consultants — trading tense jabs. After the surprise announcement, some of Scott’s donors said they were going to support Haley in the primary.
In an article on X Sunday night, Haley called Scott “a good man of faith and an inspiration to so many,” adding that the GOP primary “was made better because of his participation.”
Scott’s team was so surprised by his departure that just 13 minutes before he announced his departure, his campaign sent out an email seeking donations to bolster Scott’s “strong leadership and optimistic, positive vision.” Scott to move our country forward.” Declaring that “EVERYTHING is on the line” to win the White House, the email offered readers “ONE LAST CHANCE to donate this weekend and help Tim reach his campaign goal.”
Scott held a phone call with all staff after Gowdy’s interview, explaining his decision to end his candidacy and reiterating what he had said on television, according to a senior campaign official.
But campaign staffers expressed extreme irritation to the AP in light of the candidate’s recent move personnel and money from New Hampshire to Iowa with the aim of strengthening his position in the leading caucus.
The executive called the experience incredibly frustrating, saying staff worked around the clock to accommodate the move, only to eventually cancel the project altogether. As with the campaign worker who said Scott’s staff found out about his departure while watching the senator on television, the staffer was not authorized to publicly discuss internal deliberations and spoke under the guise of anonymity.
Many donors were surprised and saddened by Scott’s announcement, while praising him for stepping aside to give Republicans a chance to unite behind an alternative to Trump.
Eric Levine, a New York-based donor who was raising money for Scott, said he was completely caught off guard.
“He retired with dignity. He’s a true patriot. I couldn’t have been more proud to have supported him,” said Levine, a vocal Trump critic. He said he would support Haley from now on.
“She is our last hope to defeat Donald Trump and then take back the White House,” Levine said.
Chad Walldorf, a South Carolina businessman and longtime Scott supporter and donor, believed Scott’s decision was in the best interests of the Republican Party.
“I always thought the field needed to be sorted quickly so we could support a good alternative to Trump, so I greatly respect Tim for showing disinterest rather than waiting too late,” said Walldorf, who added that he now supports Haley.
Mikee Johnson, a South Carolina businessman and Scott donor who served as his national finance co-chairman, told the AP that he knew before Scott’s television appearance that he would suspend his campaign .
“He’s honorable, he knows his supporters were willing to support him for the duration of the term and he wasn’t going to ask that of his friends and supporters,” Johnson said. “He is energetic and ready for the next phase. … I told him I had no regrets.”
Many of Scott’s former 2024 rivals released statements Sunday night wishing him well.
On social media, DeSantis praised him as a “strong conservative with bold ideas on how to get our country back on track,” adding, “I respect his courage in leading this campaign and thank him for his service to America and the US Senate. »
Pence called Scott “a man of faith and integrity who brought his optimistic outlook and inspiring personal story to people across the country.”
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to news of Scott’s departure. But Trump was careful not to criticize the senator, leading some in his orbit to view Scott as a potential vice presidential pick.
The former president and his team had welcomed a wide range of rivals, believing they would split the anti-Trump vote and prevent the emergence of a clear challenger.
Scott’s next policy move is unclear. He has said his reelection to the Senate in 2022 will be his last and has sometimes been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor of South Carolina, whose next election will be in 2026. Gov. Henry McMaster, a Trump supporter, has term limited, and the GOP primary is expected to be heated.
Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Steve Peoples in New York contributed to this report.