Sen. Tim Scott’s most viral debate moment didn’t actually happen during the debate. It happened shortly after.
Mr. Scott, the affable but awkward South Carolina lawmaker, was pressed during his campaign with questions about his single status, while he focused on his faith and commitment to conservative family values.
He repeatedly gave vague answers about being in a relationship with a woman, but no one close to him had campaigned with him.
On Wednesday night, at the end of the Republican presidential debate — a time when candidates are routinely greeted on stage by their spouses and other relatives — Mr. Scott stunned observers when he appeared arm in arm with a blonde-haired woman dressed in a gray pantsuit who smiled broadly. they posed for photos.
She was later identified by a person close to the campaign as Mindy Noce, Mr. Scott’s girlfriend and a design and renovation manager for a real estate company in the Charleston, South Carolina, area. In the press room after the debate, a tight-lipped Mr Scott confirmed that the mystery woman was his girlfriend and that they had been seeing each other for “about a year or so”.
That moment attracted more attention than anything Mr. Scott said during the debate, an unfortunate metaphor for his presidential campaign. Even the photos taken during his debate with his girlfriend felt like the last memories of a stalled campaign.
Mr. Scott entered the race as an outsider, but has proven to be a strong fundraiser with the party’s base of small online donors. His style of Sunday school conservatism has yet to resonate, even with evangelicals in Iowa, home of the party’s first nomination race.
Yet Mr. Scott, who describes himself as a “happy warrior,” remains optimistic. When asked by NBC News if this was his last debate, he referred to the upcoming December debate in Alabama, saying, “Thirty days from now, in Alabama, we’ll be together having a conversation.” I will be on stage.
Mr. Scott’s companion’s emergence on the scene, like her appearance in the campaign itself, took time.
Immediately after the debate ended and other candidates were joined by their spouses, Mr. Scott put his arm around his mother, Frances Scott, and posed for a photo behind the lectern he had used during the debate. debate.
He walked along the edge of the stage and crouched down to take selfies with fans in the audience. He chatted with the supporters. He stood up and looked out at the crowd, seeming to enjoy the moment.
He took other photos with his nephew, Ben Scott.
Finally, after most of his rivals and their families had left the stage, Mr. Scott was joined at his lectern by Ms. Noce.
Mr. Scott showed her a step, taking care that she didn’t trip. They stood side by side, wrapped their arms around each other and smiled for photos.
Mr. Scott held her hand as she turned to walk off stage, as if he didn’t want to let go.
Nicolas Nehamas And Mayan King reports contributed.