Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) is poised to play a key role in former President Trump’s campaign as Trump and the GOP look to boost support among Black voters.
Scott has been a fixture on Trump’s stage since dropping his 2024 bid late last year, spurring speculation he could be Trump’s vice president pick. He also drew scrutiny recently over remarks defending Trump’s policies regarding race.
The South Carolina senator’s public support of Trump comes as Republicans have recently made a concerted effort to appeal to more Black voters, long seen as a core constituency for Democrats.
“He certainly brings a lot to the table,” Brian Seitchik, GOP strategist and Trump campaign alum, told The Hill. “He’s a substantive person. He’s very conservative, with strong ties into the African American community.”
Those ties could be important for Trump as he seeks to broaden his support ahead of what is expected to be a close race in November against President Biden, who has been struggling in polls.
A source familiar with the senator said Scott and Trump “have kept up frequently since the senator left the race in November.”
“The senator and former president have a very strong working relationship and accomplished a lot during the Trump administration,” the source added.
The most notable, the source said, was the tax cuts under the Trump administration and their work together to ensure permanent funding for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Trump won a meager 6 percent of Black voter support in 2016 during his first presidential bid, according to Pew Research Center. That number ticked up to 12 percent in 2020, but Black voters remain staunch supporters of the Democratic Party.
Yet Democrats have faced struggles with Black voters in recent years. Biden in particular has seen his numbers drop with the demographic in several recent surveys. A poll from The New York Times and Siena College published late last year found that 1 in 5 Black voters said they would back “someone else” other than Trump or Biden. The same poll found that Trump’s numbers with Black voters were the highest any Republican presidential candidate had earned in decades.
Meanwhile, a USA Today/Suffolk University poll from earlier this month found signs that Black voters younger than 35 were souring on the president.
That last point is particularly notable, said Cliff Albright, co-founder and executive director for Black Voters Matter.
“There’s different levels of enthusiasm,” Albright said. “Younger Black voters aren’t that enthused right now — and that’s putting it lightly — for a range of reasons, some which have more merit than others. The biggest one at this moment being the war in Gaza.”
Republicans now are hoping to chip away even more at Biden’s support with that group of voters. And Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate and a high-profile figure coming off a failed presidential bid, could play a central role in that effort.
Already he has proven himself to be a vocal defender of Trump, framing the former president as the best candidate to unite the country. He has also defended policies under Trump that affected Black voters, telling Laura Ingraham in a recent interview that Trump “did more for minorities” than Biden.
“Think about the fact that Donald Trump put more money in historically Black colleges and universities than any other president,” Scott said, before later adding: “Guess what? He’ll help white people and Black people and brown people. I mean, he likes everybody.”
Scott’s near-constant presence on the campaign trail has also sparked talk that he could be on the ticket with Trump — another possible nod to the pivotal role Black voters could play in the November election. But Seitchik said Scott had his work cut out for him if he wanted to be No. 2 under the former president.
“I think the big issue with Sen. Scott is can he deliver a punch?” the GOP strategist said. “The vice presidential nominee for Trump is going to go after Biden, go after Harris in an aggressive fashion and I don’t think the campaign showed that level of fight from Sen. Scott.”
Scott is also set to serve as an important surrogate as Trump looks to defeat his primary rival Nikki Haley in South Carolina, the senator’s home state, in late February.
Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, appointed Scott in 2013 to fill the Palmetto State’s vacant seat. Scott later won the 2014 special election and subsequent elections with more than 60 percent of the vote.
All of this does nothing but help Trump, said Sarah Chamberlain, president and CEO of the Republican Main Street Partnership, who argued Scott could also attract the support of Republicans who are not fully in the MAGA camp.
“That might be able to pull some of the Republicans that aren’t necessarily Trump Republicans over to Trump,” she said.
She added that she sees Scott doing well particularly with suburban women because he is highly regarded by his fellow senators. She argued he also doesn’t have any baggage, and the fact he’s now engaged could appeal to more religious voters.
Chamberlain expects Scott to appear on stage with the former president in South Carolina, but she said he’ll soon need to start campaigning on his own so Trump can reach moderates, suburban voters and Black voters.
“I think the primaries are over so I would not send him to any primaries,” said Chamberlain, who said she believes Trump will be the nominee. “I’d send him to Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin — where there is a large African American population in the swing state that needs to vote for Trump in order for Trump to win.”
And while Biden has seen warning signs with Black voters, Trump still has a lot of ground to make up with that demographic. The Times/Siena College poll from last year found that 71 percent of Black voters still backed the incumbent. The USA Today/Suffolk University poll from earlier this month found the number to be slightly lower, but still significant.
Some organizers are warning Scott could be a hindrance with Black voters, particularly Black men.
“I don’t really know if Black men are excited about Tim Scott,” Mondale Robinson, founder and principal of the Black Male Voter Project, told The Hill, arguing that Scott has failed Black voters repeatedly.
“He does not show up with the needs, issues and policies most important to our community,” Robinson said. “He proves that when he votes for Trump, when he comes out and endorses Trump, and also when he shows up for the Republican Party as a platform, that seems like it’s actively against Black people.”
One issue that has rankled Black voters is Scott’s stance on police reform. Although Democrats had pushed for federal police reform after the 2020 murder of George Floyd, Scott — the only sitting Black Republican senator at the time — joined his colleagues in rejecting the Democrats’ proposed legislation.
Others are equally skeptical Scott will help Trump with the demographic.
“The last time Donald Trump went out and found a Black man, that didn’t go well,” said Albright of Black Voters Matter, alluding to former professional football player Hershel Walker. Walker ran for Georgia’s Senate seat against Raphael Warnock in 2020 and lost in the runoff election.
Meanwhile, with South Carolina’s primary quickly approaching, Robinson pointed out that Black voter turnout in that state has been low for the last several elections.
“Only 22 percent of Black men in the state of South Carolina are likely to vote,” he said, adding that only 27 percent of Black men participated in the last four elections.
“Tim Scott is not doing enough to turn out Black men in South Carolina, let alone across the rest of this country.”