Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina is suspending his presidential campaign, he announced Sunday in an interview with Fox News.
“I love America more today than May 22. But when I return to Iowa, it won’t be as a presidential candidate. I am suspending my campaign,” he said.
Sunday night’s announcement surprised many of Scott’s aides and donors. Two people close to his campaign said they were not notified in advance, even as it became increasingly clear that Scott faced an uphill battle to break through in the GOP primary.
Scott’s presidential prospects have dimmed in recent weeks, starting with the super PAC’s decision to pull its ads. Last month, Scott’s campaign said it was going “all in” on Iowa in an effort to win over its primary rivals by targeting the first nominating race on the GOP calendar.
Scott kept the decision to leave the race close to his vest, people connected to his campaign said, but the timing was more surprising than the announcement itself. His team was worried about his qualification for the fourth Republican debate next month, after he was the last candidate to meet donor and polling thresholds to participate in last week’s debate. He had hoped that a robust debate would revive his candidacy, but even he conceded to his advisers and allies that that had not happened.
By leaving the race now, people close to his campaign said, he can return to the Senate without an embarrassing ending in Iowa. He preserves the possibility of a future political candidacy – and leaves without finding himself in Donald Trump’s crosshairs, should the former president become the nominee.
“Tim put out an optimistic, hopeful message — but that’s not where the Republican base is right now,” a GOP official who supported Scott told CNN.
Scott told Fox News’ Trey Gowdy that he would not support another Republican candidate, saying he thought “the best way for me to be helpful” was to withhold support in the primary.
Scott said he did not intend to accept a vice presidential nomination, reaffirming a position he frequently repeated on the campaign trail.
“I ran for president to become president,” he said. “I think I was called to run. I wasn’t called to win, but I was certainly called to run. …Being vice president has never been on my to-do list for this campaign, and it certainly isn’t now.
Prominent Scott donor and metal mogul Andy Sabin told CNN he was “disappointed but not surprised” the senator decided to step down and said he now plans to support the former governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, during the GOP primaries.
Scott launched his campaign in May, hoping to bring an optimistic message to a Republican camp dominated by figures such as Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who have portrayed America as a nation in decline. He made his personal story a central narrative of his campaign, often speaking about his childhood in poverty in South Carolina, raised by a single mother and using those experiences to counter Democratic arguments on a wide range of issues, from criminal justice to education to economic policy. .
“The truth of my life shatters their lies,” he often said at campaign events.
The South Carolina senator entered the race with a major financial advantage after converting his Senate campaign account into a presidential fund. That gave him a $21 million head start on fundraising and allowed him to flood the airwaves with early ads in Iowa and New Hampshire. Scott’s television spots became so ubiquitous in the early states that over the summer, audience members at campaign events were able to quote him from his ads.
Scott’s campaign officials have often touted his war chest to explain his path to the nomination, arguing that they would have the resources to stay in the race through the South Carolina primary while others Candidates would be pressured to drop out.
Yet it was Scott’s campaign that began feeling pressure in the fall after Trust in the Mission PAC, the super PAC supporting the senator’s White House bid, cut the rest of its advertising booking television broadcast of 40 million dollars, citing difficulties in “piercing” Republican voters. The announcement came shortly after fundraising reports were released showing the campaign had depleted its cash reserves at a high rate.
In response, Scott’s campaign shifted its strategy toward a single-minded focus on Iowa, moving television ad staff and bookings to the state and significantly increasing its visits. The focus on Iowa has been accompanied by a more aggressive rhetorical approach, with Scott increasingly issuing harsh criticism of President Joe Biden and his Republican rivals such as DeSantis, Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, a notable departure from a more affable earlier campaign approach.
As the nation’s most prominent black Republican politician, Scott has frequently leaned into conversations about race as a way to boost his fundraising and woo voters. He cited his own experiences to suggest that America’s struggles with racism are largely a thing of the past. During the second Republican primary debate in California, Scott made headlines when he laid out in stark terms his belief that the country has transcended the history of slavery and Jim Crow-era segregation, while condemning anti-poverty programs created in the 1960s.
“Black families survived slavery. We survived poll taxes and literacy tests. We have survived the discrimination built into the laws of our country. What was hard to survive was President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, where they decided to… take the black father out of the house to get a check in the mail, and now you can measure that in terms of unemployment, of crime, of devastation,” Scott said during the debate.
A devout Christian, Scott has also made his faith a recurring theme, often quoting Bible verses at campaign events. His campaign has prioritized outreach to evangelical voters and community leaders in Iowa, who make up a significant coalition of Republican caucus members. Scott quickly came out in favor of a 15-week federal ban on abortion and pushed his rivals to do the same, drawing praise from anti-abortion groups and leading evangelical political figures.
Scott’s exit from the presidential race marks the latest chapter in a political career that began in 1995, when he won a special election for the Charleston County Council. He held this seat for more than a decade before his election to the South Carolina House in 2008. After a term as a state legislator, Scott won a seat in the United States House representing the South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District.
Scott joined the U.S. Senate in 2013 after Haley, who was governor, appointed him to fill a vacancy left by the retirement of Republican Sen. Jim DeMint. Scott retained his seat in a 2014 special election, was re-elected to a full term in 2016 and won a second full term last year.
Scott has been more open than most Republicans to working with Democrats in Washington — he led bipartisan talks on policing overhaul alongside Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, which ultimately failed. But he also has one of the most conservative voting records in Congress. He rarely broke with Trump during the latter’s presidency, and on the campaign trail he frequently touted his conservative positions on taxes, criminal justice and education.
Throughout the campaign, Scott’s criticism of Trump — the front-runner for the Republican Party nomination — has been relatively muted compared to his attacks on other primary contenders. He has often expressed support for policies enacted during the Trump administration, including the 2017 tax cuts he helped author in Congress, but has regularly argued that Trump lacks the support in key states needed to carry out the Republicans to victory in the general election.
“I think if you look at the results in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada…one of the things you want to know is, ‘What’s the difference between Tim Scott and the other candidates, Donald Trump in particular?’ ” Scott told reporters at a press conference. Campaign event in Iowa in October. “The difference is I believe I am the most electable candidate we have in this area.”
Scott suggested Sunday that he would continue to look for “another opportunity” to launch a White House bid.
“I think the voters, who are the most remarkable people on the planet, were very clear in telling me, ‘Not now, Tim.’ I don’t think they’re saying, Trey, ‘No,’ but I think they’re saying, ‘Not now,'” Scott said. “And so I’m going to respect the voters … and continue to work very hard and look forward to another opportunity.”
This story has been updated with additional information.