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South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott speaks at an Orrin G. Hatch Foundation symposium at Zions Bank Founders Room in Salt Lake City on Friday. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)
Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who’s often mentioned as a potential 2024 presidential candidate, says the Republican Party does a terrible job of selling itself to voters.
Scott said the GOP led out on criminal justice reform, put more money into historically Black colleges, reduced unemployment rates for Hispanics, Asians and African Americans, brought poverty down to its lowest level and increased the labor force during the Trump administration.
“And we told nobody,” he said Friday during a symposium put on by the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation, a public policy think tank in Salt Lake City. Scott now occupies the space Hatch had in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., before he retired in early 2019.
The Republican Party, Scott said, never gets credit for how fast it’s growing and attracting minority voters.
“We are also the worst marketing machine in the history of politics,” he said during the question-and-answer portion of the event. “I can’t think of more bad marketing than Republicans.”
While in Utah, Scott also was scheduled to meet with leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as Republican state lawmakers.
Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, has been touted as a possible 2024 presidential candidate.
“I’ve got a reelection next year, so I’m not even thinking about that at this point,” he told the Deseret News after the symposium.
Scott, a heavy favorite to win another term in the Senate, took in nearly $8.3 million during the third fundraising quarter this year, a major sum that highlights the massive finance network he is building ahead of a prospective presidential bid, Politico reported this month. And the $31 million he has raised since 2017 ranks him second among all Senate candidates running in 2022, according to the Federal Election Commission.
The senator’s profile has been on the rise since he delivered the Republican Party’s response to President Joe Biden’s joint address to Congress in April.
Former President Donald Trump endorsed Scott’s race for reelection. Trump has hinted at running for president again in 2024.
Asked who should run for president in 2024, Scott said “it’s too early to tell.”
The Republican Party has splintered since Trump lost the election and Democrats took control of the Senate. While many GOP members remain loyal to Trump, others have looked at breaking away from the party.
“I think we’re getting healthier by the day. Honestly, I think we’re in good shape. We’ll be in better shape after 2022 and we’ve got work to be done,” Scott said.
At the symposium, Scott touched on a variety of issues including his stalled police reform bill, the ballooning national debt and voting rights.
Scott said he was disappointed that his police reform bill stalled out after two trips to the negotiating table. He said there was agreement on five issues, including banning chokeholds and no-knock search warrants, mental health treatment and deescalation training for officers. Efforts to defund police departments and set federal standards for law enforcement agencies were major sticking points.
Scott said he would take a bill on the areas of agreement, but there is no interest in that.
“I never left the table,” he said. “The five things I spoke about that we didn’t get done, we can get that done right now. All we need is someone on the other side to say yes to them … I would sign them into law right now.”
On voting rights, Scott said comparing voting laws Republicans are passing around the country, including those in Georgia, Florida and Texas, to Jim Crow is “insincere and wrong.”
“What we should do is talk about actual reform and what’s actually in the bill, not whether or not we’re trying to stop people from voting because that’s just inconsistent. I said in my rebuttal that we should make it easier to vote, harder to cheat,” he said, drawing applause from the Hatch Foundation crowd.
Massive additional spending by Biden & the Democrats sets us for higher risks of #inflation with no end in sight.
— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) October 29, 2021
Neither Republicans nor Democrats have not been interested in addressing the national debt — which he said would exceed $30 trillion when all the numbers are in — for a long time, Scott said. The $4.5 trillion Congress put toward COVID-19 relief last year slowed the spread of the virus and started the nation’s recovery, he said.
But, he said, the Democrats’ coronavirus bill that had little funding aimed at the pandemic earlier this year “basically poured fuel on a fire of inflation that has had an incredibly negative impact.”
The Biden administration’s current spending plan would just continue to add to the debt, he said. The federal government spending more and more money is slowing the recovery, he said.
“The question we should really ask ourselves is if we need the money. The answer is we don’t,” Scott said. “This state has an unemployment rate of 2.7%. Whatever you’re doing here, spread it.”
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