COLUMBIA, South Carolina –
Republican presidential candidate Tim Scott announced Sunday evening that he was withdrawing from the 2024 race, about two months before voting began in Iowa’s early caucuses.
The South Carolina senator, who entered the race in May with high hopes, made the surprise announcement on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Night in America” with Trey Gowdy, the one of his closest friends. The news was so sudden that a campaign worker told the Associated Press that campaign staff discovered Scott was dropping out while watching the show. The worker was not authorized to publicly discuss internal deliberations and spoke on condition of anonymity.
“I love America more today than May 22,” Scott said Sunday. “But when I return to Iowa, it will not be as a presidential candidate. I am suspending my campaign. I think the voters, who are the greatest people on the planet, have been very clear in me saying, “No. now, Tim.
Scott’s impending departure comes as he and the rest of the Republican field have struggled in a race dominated by former President Donald Trump. Despite four criminal indictments and a slew of other legal challenges, Trump continues to vote well ahead of his rivals, leading many in the party to conclude that the race is effectively over, barring a stunning change in fortune.
Scott, in particular, has struggled to gain ground in the polls, despite millions spent on his name by high-profile donors. In his efforts to run a positive campaign, he was often overshadowed by the other candidates, particularly on the debate stage, where he seemed to disappear as the others competed. It was unclear whether Scott would qualify for the fourth debate, which will require higher polling numbers and more unique donors.
Scott is the second major candidate to leave the race since late October. Former Vice President Mike Pence suspended his campaign two weeks ago, announcing at a Republican Jewish Coalition rally in Las Vegas that “it’s not my time.” Pence, however, was trailing Scott in the polls and was in a much more precarious financial situation, accumulating debt more than two months before the Iowa caucuses on which he had staked his campaign.
Scott said he would not immediately support any of his remaining Republican rivals.
“Voters are really smart,” Scott said. “The best way for me to be helpful is to not weigh in on who they should support.”
He also seemed to rule out running for vice president, saying the No. 2 spot “has never been on my to-do list for this campaign, and it’s certainly not there now “.
Scott’s departure leaves Nikki Haley, Trump’s first ambassador to the United Nations and former South Carolina governor, as the only South Carolinian in the race. As governor, Haley appointed Scott — then newly elected to his second term in the U.S. House of Representatives — to the Senate in 2012, and the fact that both were running for 2024 had created an uncomfortable situation for many. many donors and voters who had supported both over the years.
It also sparked some nasty moments on stage during the Republican Party’s first three debates, with longtime allies — who for a time had also shared political consultants — trading tense jabs.
In an article on X Sunday night, Haley called Scott “a good man of faith and an inspiration to so many,” adding that the GOP primary “was made better because of his participation.”
Scott, a deeply religious former insurance broker, has made his grandfather’s work in the cotton fields of the Deep South a foundation of his political identity and his presidential campaign. But he also refused to frame his own story around the country’s racial inequality, insisting that those who disagree with his views on the issue are trying to “weaponize race to divide us” and that “the truth of my life refutes their lies.” “
He has sought to focus on hopeful themes and avoid divisive language to distinguish himself from the grievance-based politics favored by his rivals, including Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Scott’s team was so surprised by his departure that, just 13 minutes before he announced his departure, his campaign sent an email seeking donations to reinforce the “strong leadership and optimistic vision and positive attitude of Scott to move our country forward.” Claiming that “EVERYTHING is on the line” to win the White House, the email offered readers “ONE LAST CHANCE to donate this weekend and help Tim reach his campaign goal.”
Campaign staffers have expressed extreme irritation with the AP in light of the candidate recently moving staff and money from New Hampshire to Iowa in an effort to bolster his position in the caucus of head.
One senior manager described the experience as incredibly frustrating, saying staff worked around the clock to organize the move, only to cancel the project altogether. The senior official was not authorized to publicly discuss the situation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Donors also expressed surprise and sadness at Scott’s announcement, while praising him for stepping aside to give Republicans a chance to unite behind an alternative to Trump.
Eric Levine, a New York-based donor who was raising money for Scott, said he was taken completely by surprise.
“He stepped down with dignity. He’s a true patriot. I couldn’t have been more proud to have supported him,” said Levine, a vocal Trump critic. He said he would support Haley from now on.
“She is our last hope to defeat Donald Trump and then take back the White House,” Levine said.
Chad Walldorf, a South Carolina businessman and longtime Scott supporter and donor, believed Scott’s decision was in the best interests of the Republican Party.
“I always thought the field needed to be sorted quickly so we could support a good alternative to Trump, so I respect Tim enormously for showing disinterest rather than waiting too late,” Walldorf said.
Many of Scott’s former 2024 rivals released statements Sunday evening wishing him well.
DeSantis praised him as a “strong conservative with bold ideas on how to get our country back on track.”
“I respect his courage in leading this campaign and thank him for his service to America and the United States Senate,” he wrote on social media.
Pence called Scott “a man of faith and integrity who brought his optimistic vision and inspiring personal story to people across the country” and wished him “every blessing as he continues to serve Carolina. South and America for many years to come.”
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to news of Scott’s departure. But Trump was careful not to criticize the senator, leading some in his orbit to view Scott as a potential vice presidential pick.
The former president and his team had welcomed a wide range of rivals, believing they would split the anti-Trump vote and prevent the emergence of a clear challenger.
Scott’s next move is unclear. He has said his reelection to the Senate in 2022 will be his last and has sometimes been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor of South Carolina, whose next election will be in 2026. Gov. Henry McMaster, a Trump supporter, has term limited, and the GOP primary is expected to be heated.
Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Steve Peoples in New York contributed to this report.