Tim Scott’s Run for President Shines a Spotlight on Black Republicans
The senator was also a leading conservative voice against Mr. Trump’s comments about a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, when the president said there were people to blame on “both sides.” Mr. Scott’s criticisms later spurred Mr. Trump to invite him to the White House.
After a series of police killings in the summer of 2016, Mr. Scott gave a detailed speech on the Senate floor about instances when he was racially profiled by law enforcement, including by US Capitol Police. These were moments, he said, when he “felt the pressure applied by the scales of justice when they are slanted.”
Now, as he becomes a presidential candidate and the nation’s highest-ranking Black Republican, Mr. Scott will likely have to answer questions about how he and the rest of his party navigate a tenuous relationship with Black voters.
“It could be a little bit of a problem to me down the road,” said Cornelius Huff, the Republican mayor of Inman, SC, who is Black. “You have to have somebody in the family that calls it what it is and straightens those things out.”
At a recent town hall in New Hampshire, Mr. Scott told a mostly white audience of supporters that he saw an opportunity to increase the party’s gains with voters of color, particularly men. Despite winning re-election by more than 25 points in 2022, Mr. Scott lost to or narrowly defeated his Democratic challenger in nearly all of South Carolina’s predominantly Black counties. Policy conversations about school choice and economic empowerment, he said, could create an opening with men of color, a group that polling shows has been more open to supporting the Republican Party in recent election cycles.
“When we go where we’re not invited, we have conversations with people who may not vote for us,” Mr. Scott said at the event. “We earn their respect. If we earn their respect long enough, we earn their vote. What is disrespectful is to show up 90 days before an election and say, ‘We want your vote.'”
The senator appeared to be speaking to a common grievance among Black voters that Democrats often count on and court their votes before major elections, and then fail to deliver on their policy promises. Yet, even as some Black voters bemoan what they see as Democrats’ empty promises on the issues they care most about, they remain the party’s most loyal constituency. More than 90 percent of Black voters voted for President Biden in 2020.