But keeping some distance from the Capitol makes sense for the South Carolina Republican — who is running against a slew of current and former governors — given the recent accomplishments of his party colleagues.
“If you look at the numbers, being a senator is not necessarily enough. To break out, you have to do something else as well,” said Paul, the Kentucky GOP senator who is an expert at using the chamber floor to grab the headlines.
Jason Roe, a GOP strategist who worked on Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign, said it more bluntly.
« The Senate is such a pile of trash for candidates running for president, » Roe said. « The less attention you attract for being in the Senate, the better. »
Inside the Capitol, Scott declines interviews that could make headlines in Washington. While Cruz has picked a cabinet shutdown fight, Warren has turned “nevertheless, he persisted” into a rallying cry, and Paul has taken control of the Senate floor for hours, Scott is focusing on the shaky Banking Committee legislation .
It’s the kind of approach that puts Scott in a class of his own among the second tier of GOP primary candidates: Unofficially, he’s shaping up as the 2024 preferred pick of Hill’s more established GOP lawmakers, despite the former’s lead. President Donald Trump.
The whip of the party, John ThuneScott argues. Former Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) hosted a fundraiser for Scott in Philadelphia last week. Former Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) co-chairs a super PAC in support of Scott’s bid. And Scott Sen’s supporter. Mike Round (RS.D.) said that more approvals will come from their colleagues.
“When you’re one of the 100, it’s hard to tell without looking like you’re just showing off, right? That’s Tim’s challenge,” Rounds said.
Scott has had a few moments on the Senate floor, but they aren’t the foundation of his presidential platform — think his race speeches about being profiled by Capitol police and his ultimately failed police reform effort in 2020. So don’t expect Scott to stonewall a speech, like Sanders and Paul did. Nor does he join 2020 Democrats who ran for president vowing to blow up Senate rules to pass his agenda.
While Scott’s record is more consistent than some past lawmakers with White House aspirations, he doesn’t necessarily rely on his politics to win over early-state voters. In the wake of the presidential campaign, Scott spoke less about his Senate policy portfolio and more about current cultural issues, saying America « is not a racist country » while denouncing « indoctrination » in schools on issues of race and sexuality .
His Senate work emerges during his campaign, but it doesn’t occupy the prominent place that Cruz’s struggles against the establishment played during his 2016 presidential bid.
« It actually speaks well of Tim Scott, who is using his job as a senator to be a senator and is running for president with his ideas, » the first-term senator said. JD Vance (R-Ohio), who endorsed Trump. « I’d be pretty frustrated, especially as a new member of the corps, if you have a guy running for president using his position to do it. »
As Scott tries to break out of the crowded field of Republicans aiming to overtake Trump as the party’s standard bearer, though, he’s battling a historic headwind. Since the Reagan era, former Vice President Dan Quayle is the only current or former GOP senator to win a general election as part of a presidential ticket. The late Bob Dole and John McCain both won their party’s nomination, then lost the general election.
Democrats put a current or former senator on every ticket for the past four decades, by contrast, and often nominate tickets for everyone in the Senate. Al Gore, Biden and Harris all advanced from the Senate to vice presidents, with Biden and Barack Obama winning the White House.
From the beginning of the 20th centuryonly two GOP senators have become president — Richard Nixon and Warren Harding — compared to five Democratic senators who have made the jump.
Being a senator is a stepping stone to national politics, Rubio said, « but once you’re an active candidate who’s out there trying to directly influence voters to vote for you, you better be in Iowa. »
This change comes with some big risks, as Rubio knows from experience. During his run in the 2016 primary, Floridian faced attacks from his GOP competitors for losing floor and committee votes to the campaign.
Scott lost several Senate confirmation votes to Biden candidates last month, at least one of them during the Iowa campaign. In those cases, his presence wouldn’t have changed the outcome, but his absence allowed Vice President Kamala Harris to avoid the need for tie-breaker votes.
Even if he were to lose multiple votes, Scott has earned something of a ride from the Senate GOP leadership.
“We’re trying to work with his team to make sure he’s here for big marks, but I’d love to see him soon on the campaign trail. I think he’s a great messenger for our team, our agenda, for our prospects,” Thune said.
Scott declined to comment on this story. His campaign spokesman Matt Gorman pointed to the senator’s creation of Opportunity Zones, a tax break that encourages investment in economically troubled areas, and his bipartisan work on anti-fentanyl legislation as two examples of his congressional role in support of his presidential bid.
« Tim Scott has a record of creating conservative legislation that is second to none, » Gorman said.
Perhaps, then, the Scott campaign has learned some lessons from recent history, as younger, more energetic senators fell to Biden in the 2020 Democratic primary and Trump sacked four GOP senators in 2016. Being a senator is no disadvantage in the GOP, the party’s candidate said in 2012, but voters don’t necessarily want to know about the laws you’ve passed or the fights you’ve waged.
« Anyone who runs for president today and spends their time talking about what they’ve done is losing, » said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah). « They need to talk about what they’re planning to do. »
National public poll averages for the GOP primary show Scott neck and neck with his home state rival, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who hovers around 3.5%. Haley nominated Scott for the Senate, a move that no doubt helped position him for this moment.
The Iowa GOP senior senator argued that Scott is trying to grab voters by the collar over the next six months with a different tactic: his ad spending, which has totaled nearly $3 million so far in Iowa and New Hampshire.
“You can’t say he’s not doing a lot for attention though [he’s] buy TV,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) he said.
Scott « will rise dramatically in the polls, » predicted Grassley, who is neutral in the primary. « But it will be a slow slog. »