WASHINGTON — Senator Tim Scott has become the latest Republican to join an increasingly crowded 2024 race for US president.
Scott, 57, who has represented South Carolina in the chamber since 2013, promised to revive America’s “culture of greatness”.
With about $22 million (£18 million) in cash on hand, he enters the fray with more campaign funds than any of his rivals.
Ex-President Donald Trump is currently the runaway front-runner among Republicans for the party’s nomination.
Scott is garnering less than 5% support in the race, according to national opinion polls.
At a launch event in his hometown of North Charleston on Monday, Scott, who is black, touted his personal story — the grandson of a Deep South cotton field worker who rose to the US Senate — as an embodiment of the American dream.
He spoke of being raised by a single mother and how his family went “from cotton to Congress” in his grandfather’s lifetime.
Scott has spoken often of his experience as a black man in America, from being pulled over by police seven times in one year to being stopped inside the US Capitol building.
But in his campaign launch speech, he rejected the idea that the nation is defined by racial divisions.
“I am living proof that America is the land of opportunity, not a land of oppression,” he said, railing against the political left. “The truth of my life disproves their lies.”
He vowed to turn around “a nation in retreat”.
“Joe Biden and the radical left are attacking every rung of the ladder that helped me climb,” he said. “We are not in decline. We are in a Biden retreat. So all we need to do is turn around.
Scott is one of three sitting black US senators in the 100-member upper chamber of Congress, alongside Democrats Cory Booker and Raphael Warnock.
The mild-mannered lawmaker, a tee-totaling bachelor, has already picked up endorsements from two of his Senate colleagues, including John Thune, the chamber’s second highest-ranking Republican.
“There may be somebody in the United States who doesn’t like Tim Scott, but I’ve never met them,” said long-time Republican consultant Whit Ayres. “He’s got the potential to be a very strong candidate.”
“For the Republican Party to be competitive in a rapidly changing America, it needs to present a different face to the electorate, and Tim Scott clearly represents a different face,” he added.
Scott will be heading later this week to Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to vote in Republican primary elections.
Having already filed paperwork to run for president with the Federal Election Commission, he has also snapped up $6 million of air time in both states. It is the largest single ad buy in the 2024 race to date.
He has the backing of some of the right’s wealthiest donors, including Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, and is expected to compete for the evangelical Christian vote, a key Republican bloc.
The former insurance salesman joins a field that also includes ex-US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and radio host Larry Elder.
Others such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former Vice-President Mike Pence are also expected to run.
“Senator Scott is going to have a huge impact on this race because he’s got the dollars behind him,” Dave Wilson, a South Carolina-based Republican strategist, told the BBC.
“When you look at the fact that he has more money than the other candidates out there, he is going to have an easier time putting the optimistic message he has out there.”
The South Carolina native’s campaign is expected to center on a more positive, less populist form of conservatism.
Scott told Fox News last year he “has not very many” policy differences with Trump. He was a key Senate backer of the then-president’s 2017 tax cuts.
If he does not win the nomination, the senator has been tipped as a potential running mate for the party’s eventual 2024 nominee.
“Good luck Tim!” Trump wrote on social media, his friendly message a stark contrast to the attacks he usually launches at rivals.
Governor DeSantis, who is polling in second place but has lost ground to Trump in recent weeks, is expected to formally join the race later this week. BBC