NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – EXCLUSIVE - It's one the biggest questions facing Republican Sen. Tim Scott as he jumps into the race for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
Will Republican voters be receptive to what Scott calls his 'optimistic, positive message anchored in conservatism.'
Scott, who on Monday will formally declare his candidacy for the White House at a campaign kick off event at Charleston Southern University, his alma mater, said in an exclusive interview with Fox News just ahead of his 2024 launch that GOP presidential primary voters are hungry for a what he's preaching.
He’ll join a GOP White House field that includes former President Donald Trump, who announced his third straight presidential run in November and remains the clear front-runner in the Republican nomination race.
Trump has continued to relitigate his 2020 election loss to President Biden as he repeats his unproven claims that his defeat was due to an election 'stolen' through 'massive voter fraud.' And the former president’s listing of his many legal grievances also became a campaign staple this year.
Asked by Fox News if Republican voters are receptive to his positive message, Scott pointed to his recent stops in the two states that kick off the GOP presidential nominating calendar and emphasized 'what I’ve seen in Iowa and New Hampshire is that voters are thrilled to have a conversation about optimism, a conversation about how to move this country forward together.'
'I’m stunned at the hunger for something positive as long as its anchored in conservatism. As long as you have a backbone,' he added.
Scott, a rising star in the GOP and the only Black Republican in the Senate, is launching his campaign in North Charleston, the town where he grew up.
'Here’s a kid that grew up in North Charleston, South Carolina, mired in poverty, in a single parent household. To think about one day being the President of the United States just tells me that the evolution of the American soul continues to move toward that more perfect union,' the senator stressed.
'There’s not a better place to have a conversation than on a campus with a spirit of academic excellent and a Christian environment and that Charleston Southern University. So I’m glad to be here at the home of the Bucs,' Scott added.
Scott's campaign kick off comes three days after he filed with the Federal Election Commission, which officially launched his presidential campaign. Scott's move came as he launched a $6 million ad blitz into the summer in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Scott kicked off a 'Faith in America' listening tour in February. That tour has taken the senator Iowa and New Hampshire, as well as his home state of South Carolina, which holds the third contest in the GOP primary and caucus lineup. Scott will return to Iowa and New Hampshire on Wednesday and Thursday, following his campaign kick off.
He joins a growing field of GOP White House hopefuls who are challenging Trump.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose anti-woke crusade has made him popular with conservatives across the country, is expected to officially file paperwork this week with the FEC to launch a presidential campaign, with a formal announcement to follow. DeSantis is second in the Republican primary polls, behind Trump but far ahead of the rest of the field.
That field will also include former Vice President Mike Pence, who's expected to launch a campaign in the coming weeks.
Scott will also face serious competition from Nikki Haley, the former ambassador to the United Nations and former two-term South Carolina governor who launched a 2024 presidential campaign in February. Haley, who’s spending plenty of time on the campaign trail in the early voting states, and Scott share many of the same allies and donors.
Also in the race are former two-term Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, multi-millionaire entrepreneur, best-selling author and conservative commentator Vivek Ramaswamy, Michigan businessman and 2022 gubernatorial candidate Perry Johnson and conservative radio talk show host and former California gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder.
Govs. Doug Burgum of North Dakota and Chris Sununu of New Hampshire are seriously mulling presidential bids, with announcements likely in the coming weeks, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie expected to announce in the coming days whether he'll launch a second GOP presidential campaign.
Scott, who cruised to re-election last November to what he has said will be his final six-year term in the Senate, is expected to court evangelical Christian voters, who play an outsized role in GOP politics in Iowa and his home state.
Another question for Scott, who's currently polling in the single digits with the rest of the pack, trailing DeSantis and far behind Trump, is how he can broaden his support and rise in the polls.
'I think after the announcement I think the polls will start to change,' Scott told Fox News. 'I think there’s an enthusiasm that will continue to spread throughout the country. And we’ll start doing the things candidates do, which will include going back to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and beyond. So we’ll spend the time, stay on the campaign trail, and make sure we have the message that works.'
While Scott doesn’t have the same national standing with conservatives that Trump and DeSantis enjoy, he’s known as a ferocious fundraiser who had roughly $22 million in his campaign coffers at the end of March, which can be transferred to his presidential campaign. The fundraising war chest could give Scott a head start over some of his rivals for the Republican nomination.