South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott was pretty clear as he dropped out of the Republican presidential nomination race and said he had no plans as of now to endorse another candidate.
“The best way for me to be helpful is to not weigh in,” he said in a live interview on Fox News’ “Sunday Night in America with Trey Gowdy.”
As he suspended his campaign, Scott was polling in the upper single-digits in the latest GOP presidential nomination surveys in Iowa — the state that leads off the Republican calendar — and his home state of South Carolina, which holds the first southern contest. Additionally, the senator stood in the mid single-digits in New Hampshire, which holds the first primary and votes second after Iowa.
The big question with just nine weeks to go until the Iowa caucuses is which of the remaining candidates will Scott supporters back?
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Scott, a rising star in the GOP and the only Black Republican in the Senate, was showcasing what he called an “optimistic, positive message anchored in conservatism,” as he ran for the White House.
A Scott ally told Fox News that “you’re talking about the most favorably viewed Republican in America right now. So he has a pretty unique coalition of supporters.”
“I think you’re going to see that support spread among several candidates because there’s not a particular subgroup that he was catering to. He had a really broad coalition of support. That’s what happens when you have someone as likable as Tim Scott,” said the strategist, who asked for anonymity to speak more freely.
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The strategist emphasized that Scott supporters would be highly sought after by the campaigns of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former United Nations ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
Both candidates quickly issued statements praising Scott after he dropped out of the race.
DeSantis and Haley are battling for second place in the GOP nomination race, far behind former President Trump, who remains the commanding front-runner as he makes his third straight White House run.
Nicole Schlinger, a longtime Iowa-based strategist, told Fox News on Monday that “there isn’t necessarily a natural place for Tim Scott supporters to all flock as a group. I think these people are going to go back to the drawing board and kick the tires on someone else.”
“This is going to be all about who is going to court them,” Schlinger added.
Haley’s campaign announced on Monday that they are reserving $10 million to run TV, radio and digital ads in Iowa and New Hampshire starting next month.
It is the largest ad buy to date by the Haley campaign and dwarfs what the DeSantis campaign, as of now, plans to spend to run spots next month in the two crucial early voting states. However, much of the advertising on behalf of the Florida governor comes from the DeSantis-aligned super PAC Never Back Down, rather than the campaign.
When she was South Carolina governor, Haley named Scott, who had just been elected to a second term in the House, to the Senate in December 2012 to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Jim DeMint.
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Haley and Scott share many of the same political friends, allies and donors, which caused some friction as they both ran for the White House.
Dave Wilson, a veteran South Carolina-based Republican consultant, told Fox News that Scott’s departure from the race “gives a level of comfort to South Carolina voters to not have a split between hometown names. When you had Scott and Haley both on the ticket, there was a question for some voters as to which one you throw your support behind.”
Scott, as he ran for president, spotlighted his faith and was a strong supporter of a 15-week federal abortion ban.
Scott’s suspension of his campaign, along with former Vice President Mike Pence departing the race late last month, leaves social conservatives and evangelical voters without their two strongest champions, and such voters play an out-sized role in Republican presidential politics in both Iowa and South Carolina.
Schlinger said those voters in Iowa may be able “to find a good home with Ron DeSantis, or President Trump, or Nikki Haley.”
Wilson emphasized that if you’re “talking to evangelical voters, these campaigns have to figure out how they’re going to message to an audience that’s looking beyond headlines.”
Additionally, pointing to the Florida governor’s wife, Wilson argued that “in all reality, Casey DeSantis is probably the best voice that Ron DeSantis has when it comes to winning over the evangelical vote, because she can speak to that audience with true sincerity.”
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