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Gavin Jackson: Welcome to This Week in South Carolina. I’m Gavin: Jackson in North Charleston, where moments ago, US Senator Tim Scott made it official. He’s running for president. Before we hear from the senator, let’s take a look back at how we got here. Tim Scott was born in North Charleston in 1965 and he's one of two boys to his mother Frances, a nursing assistant and his father, Ben who served in the Air Force. The family moved around a lot on account of Scott's father, but verbal and physical abuse took a toll, and eventually, Frances took her two boys to live with her parents in South Carolina when Scott was seven, a definitive moment in his young life.
Sharing a room and a bed with his mother and brother during those formative and poor years, has inspired much of his political narrative. His grandfather, who left school in the third grade to pick cotton, became one of the most influential people in his life, as well as a local Chick Fil-A operator, John Moniz, who Scott credits in helping turn his life around in high school by teaching the value of hard work and earning an honest buck. Moniz died when Scott was 19, but rarely does he give a speech without invoking him or his greatest source of strength, his mother, Frances. Scott still takes her to church on Sundays and occasionally she appears on the campaign trail with him.
U.S. Senator Tim Scott: Well, A, thanks for being my role model for the last 55 years of my life, without a question. You know, I love a verse Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is a substance of things hoped for. It's the evidence of things not seen. There’s a lot of women out there who have hope for something that they have not seen. How would you encourage them to remain hopeful?
Frances Scott: Well, the first thing I will tell them is, never give up.
U.S. Senator Tim Scott: Never give up.
Frances Scott: Never give up - and when you start hoping or believing for something, sometimes it takes a while or I should-I would like to say it’s a process, that it will come to pass. So, it's a process.
U.S. Senator Tim Scott: When I was nearly flunking out of school, you never gave up. Is that a good example?
Frances Scott: That's a very good example. That’s an excellent example, because I know what you had inside of you and what you were capable of doing, so therefore, I couldn't give up.
Gavin Jackson: His evangelical faith has also been a key part of his identity since childhood. He briefly thought of joining the seminary but graduated from Charleston Southern University and became an insurance salesman before getting elected to Charleston County Council in 1995, kicking off a political career that would eventually take him to the statehouse and Congress.
U.S. Senator Tim Scott: Deficit spending in Washington, is eroding the opportunities of the next generation of Americans. Unborn Americans will be paying the price for benefits that people are trying to ascribe to themselves today. That’s wrong. It’s not right. We hear people talking all the time, "We need more earmarks." Hogwash! We don't need more earmarks. What we need is courage. We need a backbone and some common sense.
Gavin Jackson: Scott recalled in a CBS Sunday Morning interview, how he decided on his political identity.
U.S. Senator Tim Scott: I feel comfortable identifying as a Republican, mostly because my issues led me there.
Frances Scott: At what age did you start thinking of yourself as a Republican?
U.S. Senator Tim Scott: 29>> 29?
U.S. Senator Tim Scott: I announced for running for office. I had to make a choice. I had to figure out who I was going to be in the public stage in order for me to run for office, and I visited the Democrats. The Democrat Party said you seem to be a talented kid. If you're willing to wait a while, your time will come. So, I looked at the issues that I wanted to run on, and I said, well, these are more aligned with the Republican Party, and they say you can run now.
Gavin Jackson: Scott would go on to be the first Black Republican elected to the statehouse in more than 100 years, and first Black Republican elected to Congress from South Carolina since Reconstruction, and then in 2012, another first. South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, stepped down from the US Senate and Governor Nikki Haley appointed Scott to fill the remainder of his term.
Nikki Haley: ...but I also think this is a new day, and it is with great pleasure that I am announcing that I am appointing our next US senator to be Congressman Tim Scott. (applause)
U.S. Senator Tim Scott: ...and I look forward to continuing to build on the family known as South Carolina. You know, I haven't won anything yet in the Senate. I have to run for reelection in 2014.and I look forward to having an opportunity to getting around the state and introducing myself to citizens throughout this great state of South Carolina. I will say this in closing, that the future is incredibly bright for America. We have our challenges. We have things that we have to overcome, but boy, does the future look great in South Carolina.
Gavin Jackson: ...and he would go onto win a full term in 2016 and again easily in 2022, his final term. Eleven short years later, however, both he and Haley face each other in a growing 2024 Republican presidential field.
Nikki Haley:...and, you know, we wish him well just, you know, like, we wish everybody else well, but at the end of the day, you know, it’s about showing, are you capable to run the country in a way that’s going to get our economic policy back on track, that's going to deal with foreign policy issues, and make sure that we make America strong and proud again. I’m determined to do that. I'm not worried about anybody else in the race. I’m just focused on me and my communication with the American people.
Gavin Jackson: Both Scott and Haley have been touted as rising stars within the party, and both endorsed Florida Senator Marco Rubio for President in 2016 over Donald Trump. Trump handily won the nomination and went onto win the White House, and Scott went on to bean ally and sounding board of sorts, during the good times and the bad, including his work on opportunity zones,
Donald Trump: Jobs and investments are pouring into 9000 previously neglected neighborhoods, thanks to opportunity zones, a plan spearheaded by Senator Tim Scott as part of our great Republican tax cuts. (applause)
Gavin Jackson: He also helped craft part of the tax overhaul law in 2017. Scott was also the Republican lead on negotiations on police reform, following the brutal murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police officers in 2020.
U.S. Senator Tim Scott: I don't speak on this floor very often. But this is my10th speech on policing in America in eight years, the 10th time I’ve asked for something that will make our officers better and safer and make our communities better and safer. Another time, I have asked for more resources for recruitment so that we can have only the best wearing the badge.
Gavin Jackson: The Justice Act however, never got past negotiations after he and his Democratic counterpart Cory Booker failed to reach an agreement on portions of the bill. In 2020, Scott supported President Donald Trump’s-election campaign and spoke to the nation in primetime about his story and Trump's vision for America.
U.S. Senator Tim Scott: Joe Biden said if a Black man didn’t vote for him, he wasn’t truly Black. Joe Biden said Black people are a monolithic community. It was Joe Biden who said poor kids can be just as smart as White kids.
Gavin Jackson: Though Trump lost in 2020, Scott’s profile continued to rise, and he had the coveted spot of responding to President Joe Biden's first address to Congress.
U.S. Senator Tim Scott: I have experienced the pain of discrimination. I know what it feels like to be pulled over for no reason, to be followed around the store while I’m shopping. I remember every morning at the kitchen table, my grandfather would open the newspaper and read it, I thought, but later I realized he had never learned to read it. He just wanted to set the right example. I've also experienced a different kind of intolerance. I get called Uncle Tom and the N word by progressives, by liberals. Just last week, a national newspaper suggested my family’s poverty was actually privilege.
Gavin Jackson: Since then, Scott has traveled the country campaigning for other candidates raising money and his profile to the point where after a fresh and re-election victory in 2022To his final term in the Senate, the 57 year old has decided to run for the highest office in the land and launched an exploratory committee in April. He’s visited early voting states like Iowa, where he spoke in February about his plan for America.
U.S. Senator Tim Scott: I bear witness that America can do for anyone what she’s done for me, but we must rise up to the challenges of our time. This is a fight, we must win, and that will take faith, faith in God, faith in each other, and faith in America. God bless our United States of America, and God bless you.
Gavin Jackson: ...we're going to be on the road with the senator as he returns to Iowa and New Hampshire this week, this time as a declared presidential candidate, but first, more from his remarks at his alma mater at Charleston Southern University.
U.S. Senator Tim Scott: Hundreds of people on our terrorist watch list are crossing our borders. Chinese nationals are flooding into Mexico to break in. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are doing nothing when 70,000 Americans lose their lives to fentanyl. Every country in this country has become a border county. The left shut down, the left shut down our schools and churches in the name of slowing a virus, but they won’t secure the border to protect our families from fentanyl. When I (applause) when I am President, the drug cartels using Chinese labs and Mexican factories to kill Americans will cease to exist. (Applause and cheering) I will freeze their assets. I will build the wall and I will allow the world's greatest military to fight these terrorists because that’s exactly what they are. (applause) Security, Security needs starts on our border, but it doesn't end there. We have spent decades getting deeper and deeper into debt to the Chinese Communist Party. Their goal is not just to surpass us, their goal is to beat us. I’m reminded of a Bible verse, Proverbs 22:7 that says the borrower is slave to the lender. It goes beyond our finances, though. It’s about our supply chains. It’s about medicines and microchips and critical minerals. It’s about China buying American farmland, infiltrating our airspace and tracking our kids. It’s about President Xi siding with Putin in Iran, America can win this competition, but Joe Biden cannot. (applause) I will be the president who ramps up research and development, reclaims our supply chains and re-energizes our manufacturing base with opportunity zones 2.0 and an entire Made in America agenda.(applause) I see an era of exponential innovation where America leads the world with new breakthroughs, where new medical cures and cheaper drugs and lower healthcare costs become the norm, lengthening the lives of our citizens where law enforcement has advanced equipment to keep each and every one of them safe,(applause)where American where we have huge new American factories, creating high paying American jobs. I will be the president who stops the far left's assault on our religious liberty. I will preserve one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. (applause) Yes, we will. Yes, we will.
Gavin Jackson: For more analysis on Scott's presidential bid, we turn to Gibbs Knotts, who’s the Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the College of Charleston
Gavin Jackson: Gibbs, thanks for joining me.
Gibbs: Great to be with you, Gavin.
Gavin Jackson: So, Gibbs, Senator Tim Scott has entered the presidential race. This is a significant moment for our state on multiple fronts. We have two viable candidates now in the presidential race, on top of the fact that South Carolina is an early voting state, but let's start with what makes Tim Scott such an appealing candidate and what his motivation was to get in this race.
Gibbs: I mean, the two best positions to be in a run for president are a US senator or a governor and he's a US senator, and he's got...an optimistic message. I mean, in this era, where people are tearing each other down and trying to win the day with some big Tweet or, you know, the Marjorie Taylor-Green, Donald Trump era of politics, Tim Scott is a different type of politician, and I think he's going to bring a more optimistic, kinder, certainly still very conservative, but optimistic, kinder approach, kind of approach.
Gavin Jackson: So, Gibbs, when we talk about this message of hope and positivity, that's all well and good, but I mean, you remember the2016 Republican presidential primary, it was pretty much a slugfest. Can this good guy behavior? Can this nice guy behavior really get through all that with these platitudes? How does he break through when it's going to be probably a repeat of 2016?
Gibbs: It's going to be tough. I mean, obviously, Donald Trump beat some really good candidates, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, you remember Nikki Haley and Tim Scott supported Marco Rubio in 2016, and so yeah, it's gonna be really, really hard, but at some point, maybe people are going to get sick of this at some point, they're going to be looking for some type of change, and he's the person I think that’s best positioned if the Republican voters decide, look, you know, we want a conservative that’s for sure, but we don’t want somebody like Donald Trump, and Ron DeSantis has picked a lot of fights in Florida. I mean, whether it's the controversy with Disney or some of the things with higher education, and so, you know, he may also be somebody who doesn’t play quite as well in suburban areas. You know, Ron DeSantis, you know, might be really popular in some parts of South Carolina, but there's probably other parts like the 1st congressional district for one or maybe he’s not going to be quite as popular.
Gavin Jackson: So, when you...kind of piggyback on that Gibbs, when we're talking about maybe that message that’s not so heated and so feisty, then you start looking at Governor Nikki Haley, former Governor Haley, and she's trying to occupy that lane too and they both her and Tim Scott have similar messages, similar narratives. She’s a woman of color. She has similar backgrounds in some respects, different...track records, of course, being a governor versus a senator, but how do they handle that lane together, in your opinion? They’re like I said, a lot of similarities there. They’re going to have to break through in some ways. What do they need to do to, you know, get through the noise?
Gibbs: It's really going to be tough for them. I mean, obviously, they’re still in single digits. I mean, it's early, but they're still you know, you've got really two main competitors in Trump and DeSantis, and so yeah, it's gonna be hard for them, but I think, you know, just they need to figure out okay, what are the policy areas that they can really connect with, and for Tim Scott, you know, he’s willing to stand up against Trump when it was Charlottesville or certainly after the George Floyd murders, led criminal justice reform for the...GOP, and so I think those are the types of issues where Scott can really come...around, I think Haley's got a lot of foreign policy experience, obviously, being an ambassador to the United Nations. She’s going to be able to carve out some expertise that I think some of the other candidates just aren’t going to have, and so I sort of think for Haley, it can be foreign policy for Tim Scott, it can be some of these domestic issues, particularly related to race.
Gavin Jackson: It's gonna be interesting to see how he has to do it too. Right? -because I've been seeing Nikki Haley on the campaign trail where she gets asked a lot about Trump, obviously. She served in his cabinet as the US Ambassador to the United Nations, and then she, you know, starts talking about these competency tests, and that seems like maybe her cover for trying to get him out of the race and saying that, the past is in the pastor might be too much baggage with someone like Trump. She calls him a friend, but she doesn’t directly attack him. I’m assuming we're gonna see maybe some similar tags with Senator Scott's candidacy.
Gibbs: Tim Scott’s already done some of that, you know, just as the US senator. So I expect he will also. I think they're both going to talk about it, talk about electability. I mean, I think both Tim Scott and Nikki Haley are much better general election candidates than Donald Trump. I think they’re going to be able to win in suburban areas. They're going to be able to expand the party a little bit, maybe bring in a more diverse group of voters to the Republican Party, and so I expect them to talk about that when they’re out on the campaign trail. I mean, electability, Republicans, you know, lost a tough one in 2020.They don't want to lose again. They've lost a good number of races, Obviously, 2022 should have really been a landslide, if you look historically, and Republicans did, you know, okay, but not as well as they should have, and so I think electability is going to be a big part of Tim Scott and Nikki Haley's message.
Gavin Jackson: Yeah, definitely, because we're hearing that from her about just how much they’ve lost the popular vote so many times like the midterms, etc. So, it’s really just a matter of getting that message, but of course, its primary voters too. So, you have to kind of juggle that...that messaging. So, do you see an opportunity to do that? How do you do that in somewhere like South Carolina where we play such a critical role? What do the voters in South Carolina want to hear from folks and how does that determine I guess the race forward, Gibbs? You’ve written the book on the South Carolina primary.
Gibbs: So yeah, so South Carolina is going to be first for the Democrats. It's going to be still third for the Republicans, and what I wrote the book with Jordan Ragusa, one of my colleagues here at the College of Charleston, and what we found was that the South Carolina voters are pretty representative of the National Republican Party. We kind of tried to rank the different states, and then compare them to national Republican voters, and South Carolina ended up being about third, and so I guess what I’m trying to say is, is that if you can do well, in South Carolina, you can probably do well, nationally, and Tim Scott and Nikki Haley have both done really, really well in South Carolina. Not only did they win their primaries, they won general multiple general elections in this state, and so I do think they both have the ability to appeal to the National Republican electorate, based on how well they’ve done in previous elections in South Carolina. It's just going to be a little tough, because they're both in it. It's almost like they should have like, you know, had to have had an outside wager, flipped a coin, figured out who could have, one of them could have run and the other one could have maybe said next time, because they're both fairly young, when it comes to, you know, politics and politicians today, but I do think their message has the ability to not only win in this state, but win nationally.
Gavin Jackson: ...and Gibbs just kind of looking at a little bit about that flipping that coin joke there, they also need to break through this vice presidential chatter too, right, because the polling kind of suggests that they’re, you know, they're not a Donald Trump. They’re not around DeSantis, who are just dominating the polls right now. So how do they get through that like, oh, they're just running for vice president at this point?
Gibbs: I've had a lot of people say that to me when I'm out and about and kind of asked my opinion. I mean, I feel like there's no way they’re putting themselves through this solely to run for vice president. I think they both believe that they have a legitimate shot. I mean, why wouldn't a Us senator who's won multiple times have a shot? Why wouldn't somebody who's been a governor and done the things that Nikki Haley's done and also, you know, served in an administration on the world stage not have a legitimate shot at running for the presidency? That doesn't mean that they would turn down a vice presidential ask if they got it, but certainly I think they're running for president, and I do think they just need to keep reminding voters about their experience and about how, you know, they wouldn't get into this if they weren't, didn't think they had a legitimate shot to be president, didn't really want to be president, but it's got to be tough because they're younger. And you've got an incumbent president running in the primary, which changes things. We don't really -not an incumbent president, but a former president running in the primary, that’s pretty rare in American politics, and so that's kind of messing things up a little bit for them as well.
Gavin Jackson: So Gibbs, when you’re looking at this, we’re talking about messaging, we're talking about how it resonates with voters. Obviously, polling is one way to determine that, but also money, these big donors and how much money they’re bringing in. These candidates are, Tim Scott has amassed a very large war chest when he was campaigning a lot in 2022,not only for his own reelection, but which was very easy, because his Democratic moment was just really not there, but when he was, you know, campaigning for other candidates across the country, at the same time helping build his network not just with donors, but with politicians and supporters. So money is going to be a big factor to see who can actually make it to South Carolina next February, on to Super Tuesday. How are you watching that? And what does that tell you in terms of how they can, they can make it through?
Gibbs: Yeah, I mean, it’s really good news for Tim Scott. He’s doing really, really...He comes in with more money. I think he raised, you know, among the most of anybody running for president in this first quarter, and so I mean, that's the name of the game, not only does it allow you to hire people and get people on your team, but it allows you to get on the airwaves, which is really, really important in these early primary states, and so, you know, from the money raised by Tim Scott, you know, it's still Trump and DeSantis. Those are still the two, but you know, what, if one of them stumbles? Who’s going to be the next person up, and the fact that Tim Scott has done so well with fundraising puts him in a really good position?
Gavin Jackson::...and we’re almost out of time, Gibbs I want to ask you just about Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, who, as of our taping has not declared his candidacy yet but is expected to do so. He's the closest to Trump, like we said, in a lot of polling data, but you know, when it comes to South Carolina, your colleague, Scott Huffmon up at Winthrop University had his poll that showed that, you know, we saw DeSantis in second place there, but Nikki Haley was very, was very close to the third within the margin of error. So that's probably really encouraging news, and when it comes to, just the state of South Carolina when you want to win your home state for either Nikki Haley or Tim Scott, but what do they have to do to break through again, with, you know, DeSantis and Trump battling it out? Are they going to wait for either of them to stumble like you're saying, and then just to swoop in and catch fire at the right moment? I mean, it's...I know it’s a long time away from the primary, but kind of lay it out for us.
Gibbs: Just a lot can happen, you know, I expect there'll be debates, and so, there’s some controversy whether Trump will even be in the Republican primary debates, but that'll be an opportunity to really kind of, you know,...shake up the race a little bit and keep in mind DeSantis, you know, is, has a lot of buzz right now, but he really hasn't had the national media scrutiny that you get when you run for president, and so, you know, there could be things about DeSantis, that, you know, voters aren't going to like as much, and you could certainly stumble, and you know, and again, Trump and DeSantis are a lot alike in some of their tactics a lot of their policies, and so if somebody is looking for an alternative, that’s what Haley and Scott are trying to figure out, because they clearly, you know, practice, they’re all conservative, but they practice a different brand of politics than Trump and DeSantis, and so I think they both provide good options. Again, it's just unfortunate, I think that they're both running at this particular time, both from South Carolina, both competing for a lot of the same voters
Gavin Jackson: This should turn to a good case study for you when it comes to research, right, to have two big candidates like this. I mean, we really haven't had this in our history before.
Gibbs: That's exactly right. You know, Lindsey Graham ran in 2016, but ended up dropping out before the South Carolina primary, but yeah, to have these two candidates, you know, then again, I think people might drop out too. It’s like, we'll see who’s actually on the ballot when South Carolina primary occurs in, you know, early 2024, because there's a lot of buzz, but there's a lot of time in the fall, and Kamala Harris is a good example. I mean, she came to South Carolina, some in 20...in 2020,but ended up ultimately, you know, dropping out before the primaries really contested here, and so some of these folks that we're talking about now might just realize they're not raising money, they’re not looking good in the polls, and they might decide to back out and so, the field I think is going to change a bunch, and there's a lot of time, but it's still, you know, Trump and DeSantis are the people that I think are best positioned to get the nomination, but we’ve also got some really good people here from South Carolina. It’s gonna be really fun to watch.
Gavin Jackson: ...and Gibbs really quick, what are you watching for over the next couple months? What shall we be watching for as an early voting state?
Gibbs: Yeah, just we’re gonna get tons of opportunities to see these candidates and it's not hard to...go see them. I think we're going to continue to get, you know, people are going to be coming here. Mike Pence has been coming here it seems like ever since he stopped being vice president, and so I'll be curious to see whether he ends up-Yeah, just go out and see the candidates. Go out and ask them questions. It's pretty amazing that the sensational figures come to our state, and it's just a great opportunity for voters and we've got a big responsibility in South Carolina to weigh in on who's going to ultimately get the nomination.
Gavin Jackson: That's Gibbs Knotts. He's the Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences at the College of Charleston. Gibbs, thanks, as always.
Gibbs: Thanks, Gavin.
Gavin Jackson: ...we'll be back next week with coverage from Senator Tim Scott's initial swing through Iowa and New Hampshire, this time as a declared Republican presidential candidate, and you can stay up to date with the latest news throughout the week by following the South Carolina Lede podcast on SouthCarolinapublicradio.org or wherever you find podcasts. For South Carolina ETV, I'm Gavin: Jackson in North Charleston. Be well, South Carolina.