South Carolina Senator Tim Scott has officially pulled the plug on his 2024 hopes of becoming the Republican nominee for president. Speaking to Trey Gowdy on Fox’s Sunday Night in America yesterday evening, November 11, he made clear that his campaign was over, saying, “I think the voters, who are the most remarkable people on the planet, have been really clear that they’re telling me, ‘Not now, Tim.'” Senator Scott was most likely able to divine that message from his poor polling performance, where he has been unable to reach 5% and is hitting an average of just 2.5%.
In the book of Daniel, King Belshazzar is horrified to see writing appear on a wall as if from nowhere. He calls his counselors and wise men to translate the unknown script: “Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin.” But only Daniel is able to provide a translation: You have been weighed, measured, and found wanting. As the candidate field begins to narrow, one wonders who else will see the writing on the wall.
The Tim Scott Calculation
Scott ending his campaign is not a major surprise. Poll after poll has shown him unable to stand out from the crowd, and despite a solid performance in all three of the GOP primary debates, his mark was not made, which begs two questions of interest. First, is Scott’s withdrawal a tactical action? And second, if the senator can read the signs so clearly, why can’t other hopefuls?
By pulling out of the primary race at this time, Scott walks away with the goodwill of not only a large chunk of GOP voters who are solidly behind Donald Trump (61% in both the latest CBS and CNN polling) but also Trump himself. The former president has spoken kindly of Tim Scott, who has notably not even tried to deal a blow to the frontrunner. As the contest progresses, candidates will be forced to distance themselves even further from The Donald and risk raising his not-inconsiderable ire – effectively ruining their chances of being chosen to run as VP alongside the man almost certainly destined to win the nomination.
Of note is that Scott told Gowdy that, “Being vice president has never been on my to-do list.” While some might take that at face value, to more jaded political observers, that could be read as “Hey, Donald, give me a call.”
Ignoring the Numbers?
But what of other candidates in a similar position to Tim Scott? Just ahead of the senator in the polling is former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; Scott at 2.5% and Christie a mere 0.1% ahead on 2.6%. If the numbers spell an end for Scott, why would they not propose the same message to Christie? The answer appears to be differing motivations.
Scott wanted the nomination and, at the very least, hopes to gain serious political capital by running a strong but ultimately “nice guys finish last” campaign. Christie, on the other hand, has a single goal in mind – and it doesn’t involve resting his heels on the Resolute desk. His raison d’être is to put an end to Trump’s political career – and having the stage at a GOP primary debate allows him to reach millions of people and sow his personal dissent.
Also just ahead of Scott is young entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. With an average polling of 4.7%, he almost doubles Tim Scott and Chris Christie, but that might not be enough to get him on stage for the fourth scheduled GOP debate in December. He trails former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley by almost five points and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis by ten. As things stand right now, he may not even make the qualifying conditions.
Tim Scott has earned himself a lot of goodwill among Trump voters. He has also saved himself some potential embarrassment by pulling out before the South Carolina primary that takes place on February 24, 2024. If he had stayed in and lost to Haley – a favored daughter of the Palmetto State – it could have damaged his political stock both locally and nationally.
Scott’s withdrawal was a savvy political move that could pay dividends as the other contenders prepare to ramp up to a new level of ferocity that his nice guy persona could not weather. In fact, he may be the only primary contender who emerges from this arduous battle with any hint of victory.