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Tipsheet

Is Tim Scott the Candidate Democrats Fear Most for 2024?

AP Photo/Mic Smith

While many are preparing for a 2020 rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, it's worth keeping in mind how it is that Trump is the opponent Biden most wants to face. While Trump is currently the front runner, there's still a dozen Republican candidates vying for the nomination, including Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC). RealClearPolitics (RCP) currently has him polling with an average of 3 percent support, but he's nevertheless the candidate that Biden, and other Democrats appear to fear.

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A Friday report from the Washington Examiner spoke to the idea of how "Biden sets up MAGA movement as his opponent in event GOP abandons Trump."

For Democrats to slur their political opponents as "MAGA Republicans" is nothing new, and voters can expect to keep hearing it, even if Trump doesn't win the nomination. That's because, as the Washington Examiner report mentioned, Biden's campaign and the DNC "are ramping up their strategy in favor of running against the 'Make America Great Again' slogan and hard-line Republicans in general."

The report points specifically to a strategy that includes focusing on Scott's campaign:

One example of this strategy in action is the placement of staffers in early primary states ahead of visits from relatively unlikely GOP nominees, who are polling in the single digits.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) is polling at 2% nationally, but Democrats are addressing the possibility of a Scott nomination early on with communications staffers in place ahead of his campaign visits to spread awareness to voters about what they believe to be extreme positions that don't deviate from those of Trump.

The Democratic apparatus is confident that no one will clinch the GOP nomination without subscribing to many of the positions taken by Trump, which it considers extreme. In this case, campaigning against "MAGA" or hard-line right-wing stances puts Biden in a position to campaign against the eventual nominee before they are even selected.

Earlier in the week, Scott was also the focus of two press releases from the DNC, both on Tuesday, with one headline declaring how "2024 Republicans Target Tim Scott" and another claiming that "Tim Scott Renews His Call to Gut Social Security and Medicare." As the Des Moines Register reported last month though, citing his remarks at an Iowa town hall, Scott had made clear "we're going to reduce the costs and make sure we never, ever cut Medicare or Social Security benefits," adding "I will protect Social Security and Medicare for my own mother, and for you too."

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That Democrats fear a Scott nomination has been covered before. Last month, NBC News published an articled detailing how "Few Americans know Sen. Tim Scott, but some Democrats see him as a tough general election opponent."

The report speaks not just to Biden's own vulnerabilities, who at, currently 80-years-old, very much looks and sounds like our nation's oldest president. It also points to what Scott has to offer:

Democrats worry that as a Black man, Scott, who was elected to the Senate in 2012, would peel away voters who are crucial to Biden’s re-election. That, at age 57, Scott’s mere presence on the debate stage would call attention to the inconvenient fact that Biden is the oldest president ever. And that with an upbeat message, Scott might appeal to an electorate disenchanted with the sour state of American politics.

Mo Elleithee, a former Democratic National Committee communications director who now runs the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Policy, invited Scott in 2016 to speak to his left-leaning students. In front of the class, Scott kicked off his shoes, revealing a pair of neon pink-and-blue polka-dot socks. Shoeless, the senator won over the room. 

“I was just struck with his ability to connect with that audience,” Elleithee said. “I know a lot of them walked out not necessarily supporting him but seeing him as a different kind of political figure.”

...

Neither Scott nor former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, another minority candidate, has much to lose by running. If they demonstrate enough voter support, they stand a chance to become a vice presidential pick, as their diversity might bolster the appeal of the GOP ticket.

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Mo Elleithee, mentioned above, formerly of the DNC, is not the only Democrat mentioned in the report for praising Scott. Many more are included, on and off the record, whether they speak to Scott as a candidate who is not Trump, or to him specifically:

If Scott or Haley were to somehow defy the odds and win the nomination, they’d match up well against Biden given his vulnerabilities, some Democrats said.

“It’s apparent in every public poll that there are pervasive concerns about Biden’s age,” said Chris Kofinis, a Democratic strategist. “That allows any of these other candidates who are not named Trump to paint a much stronger contrast about taking the country in a new direction.”

A congressional Democrat, speaking on the condition of anonymity to talk freely, said, “While the president has led admirably, even his most devout supporters know that his age and vitality are likely to play significant roles in the election — particularly if he’s matched against a decades-younger candidate.”

...

The Democratic Party’s official view is that Scott, Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are all extreme choices in their own ways and that Biden could beat any of them. 

But others worry that Scott and Haley could make inroads with crucial parts of the Democratic coalition Biden needs to keep intact...

...

Scott, the first Black senator from the South since Reconstruction, could conceivably shave a few points from the Black male vote in key swing states. Exit polls from 2020 showed a slippage in the margin of Black men voting for Biden compared to Hillary Clinton in 2016. Black voters remain a crucial demographic group for Democrats, and the defection of just a small percentage could cost the party dearly, while a Black nominee might also make some white voters who fled the Republican fold in the Trump era feel better about returning.

“Tim Scott [would] get more Black votes than Donald Trump did running against Joe Biden,” a Biden fundraiser said, speaking on condition of anonymity to talk freely. “It’s going to happen.”

Hardened Democratic operatives say Scott’s appeal is rooted in a compelling personal story of having grown up poor and Black in the Deep South, together with his message that as president he would try to make similar opportunities available to everyone. 

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Elleithee is also once more quoted, saying in part that "[a] Tim Scott candidacy is the one that I think would be the most complicated to run against" and "I think people would have to think long and hard about how you run against Tim Scott," after claiming it would be easier to campaign against Trump or Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), who is currently in a distant second place for the nomination. 

"The truth of Tim Scott's life disproves the lies of the Left. Whether it is attacks from the women of The View or former President Obama, Tim is the one candidate the radical Left fears the most," a spokesperson for the Scott campaign told Townhall in a statement, highlighting some examples in which the Left has gone after the candidate. "Tim Scott will continue to share his message of optimism that is anchored in conservative values."

Trump nevertheless is confident he'll be the nominee and has already been discussing how he would incorporate fellow Republican candidates in his administration. During an interview with Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures," last month Trump was asked directly about Scott. 

"I could see Tim doing something with the administration, but he's in right now campaigning," Trump said in part. 

When asked for comment at the time, the Scott campaign pointed Townhall to comments the candidate made the week prior to Fox News' Neil Cavuto. Scott made clear "I'm going to continue to run this race for one objective, it's to be the president of the United States. I did not enter this race to come in second place. Second place is the first loser."

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"From my perspective," Scott also pointed out, "the only way to run for president is to do it 100 percent of the time," making clear he's currently running to be the president. "All we're focused on is making sure that the next generation of stories of the American dream make mine pale in comparison. We're the city on the hill, Neil. We must remain the beacon in the midst of the storm," he said, offering a hopeful message. 

The Townhall Straw Poll, as of July 19, has Scott with 2.74 percent support. You can vote here if you haven't already done so. Another round of results will be released on August 8. 

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