Does Tim Scott have a real chance of winning the GOP presidential nomination?

The South Carolina senator isn’t polling well against Republican frontrunners Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis — but some pundits say he could still take off.

“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories and debates.

What’s happening

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina announced on Monday that he will seek the Republican nomination for the presidency. In preparing for a campaign in recent weeks, he has sought to strike an optimistic tone at stark odds with more divisive rhetoric emanating from the frontrunners, former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to announce his own formal candidacy on Wednesday.

“They say opportunity in America is a myth, and faith in America is a fraud. But the truth of my life disproves their lies,” Scott said as he launched his campaign, invoking his own humble roots as evidence that the nation’s promise remains unbroken.

Read more from our partners at Politico: “55 Things You Need to Know About Tim Scott”

Why there’s debate

Scott initially made moves toward a presidential run in April. Since then, however, he has failed to make a dent in Trump’s enduring — and perhaps increasing — popularity among GOP voters.

While DeSantis has been dropping in the polls, he remains firmly in second place. The young Florida governor remains a favorite of many GOP donors and establishment figures, who see him as a vessel for Trumpism that is steadier and more predictable than Trump himself.

Photo illustration: Jack Forbes/Yahoo News; photos: Al-Drago-Pool/Getty Images, Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images, Alex Wong/Getty Images
Photo illustration: Jack Forbes/Yahoo News; photos: Al-Drago-Pool/Getty Images, Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images, Alex Wong/Getty Images

Although Scott rarely crossed Trump while he was in the White House, he seems unencumbered by the former president or his legacy. He has attracted comparison to Ronald Reagan, whose bright disposition proved compelling to Americans after the downbeat Carter years.

Reagan, however, was a pro-immigration, pro-business conservative who supported an interventionist foreign policy. None of those are features of the Republican Party today. That poses a potential problem for Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, who has shied away from culture wars and controversies that animate conservatives.

Read more from our partners at Bloomberg: “Tim Scott’s Trying to Beat Trump as a Nice Guy With Wall Street Backing”

What’s next

Like all other candidates, Scott will have to contend with the media-gobbling colossus that is Donald Trump. Unlike DeSantis, however, he is not trying to out-MAGA the former president, and that potentially gives him more room to maneuver.

Scott is expected to focus a good deal of his energies on Iowa’s evangelical voters, who could power him to a caucus victory there. His appeals to them are expected to be deeply personal in nature, free of the contrivance and pandering that campaigning usually demands.

“I am first a Christian,” Scott has said. The appeal to faith could also have resonance in other early primary states, including his native South Carolina.

Scott has long been an adept fundraiser. He also gained early endorsements from fellow Sens. Mike Rounds and John Thune, both of South Dakota. Thune, the second-highest-ranking Republican in the chamber, called Scott “the closest to Ronald Reagan that you're going to see.”

Read more from our partners at NBC News: “Senators love Tim Scott, but they're not ready to endorse him for president”


Scott can win if Trump and DeSantis implode

“Sometimes frontrunners destroy each other and leave room for a breakout candidate to run up the middle. It’s theoretically possible that Trump and DeSantis could go nuclear on each other to the degree that the electorate yearns for some counterprogramming. Scott’s amiable and positive persona would stand in stark contrast to the personalities of both Trump and DeSantis.” — Matt Lewis, Daily Beast

Scott can make himself the main alternative to Trump

“Where Trump is brash, Scott is measured. Where Trump is rich, Scott was raised in poverty. Where Trump has a flair for the dramatic, Scott is mundane. Trump has been married three times, while Scott is single. Where Trump likes heated rhetoric, Scott’s words are a salve for the bitter soul of America.” — John Feehery, The Hill

It could all come down to the GOP debates

“President Trump has a 36.9 percent lead on RealClearPolitics – that is enormous … there’s no denying that Donald Trump is the front-runner right now. However, there are some intangibles here. Scott’s campaign would tell you, ‘we’re banking on debate night.’” — Kayleigh McEnany, former White House press secretary, on Fox News

Trump’s GOP opponents are running out of time

“What Scott, DeSantis, Haley and the rest need are primary voters who think that the party should stand for something more than a cult of personality, and that the presidency is more than a tool for self-aggrandizement and retribution. Unless they know where to find a bunch of new such voters, they’re going to have to start reeducating the ones they have. And it’s getting late.” — Jonah Goldberg, Los Angeles Times

Scott stands out and has room to maneuver

“There is a lot of common ground on the issues among the Republican candidates. It’s a question of how you express it. We will hear a different tone from him. Scott has the chance to make his lane in this race whatever he wants to make it because what he talks about comes from within and he is authentic.” — Karl Rove, to Bloomberg

Republicans may want a candidate they think is more electable than Trump

“Biden and his fellow Democrats have very real fissures with some parts of their coalition and Scott could peel some voters of color away from their default partisan identifications. That is compelling for some abacus-wielding Republicans who are frustrated with the fact the GOP has lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. If politics truly is a game of addition, Team GOP needs to start finding new supporters and hemorrhaging their deserters.” — Philip Elliott, Time

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