Lost in all the hoopla of congressional primary elections on June 10 was South Carolina interim Sen. Tim Scott’s overwhelming victory in his race with over 90 percent of the vote.
Mr. Scott, a tea party darling, was first elected to Congress as part of the 2010 wave that brought the GOP control of the House of Representatives. He was appointed to the U.S. Senate in 2012 by Gov. Nikki Haley after Jim DeMint resigned his seat to take over the Heritage Foundation. He is one of only two current African-American U.S. Senators, the only black Republican in the upper chamber and the first black Republican senator since Edward Brooke of Massachusetts left the Senate in 1979 after two terms. Should Mr. Scott win his November contest, as is widely expected, he would become not only the first black senator ever elected in South Carolina’s history, but also the state’s first black candidate elected in any statewide contest since Reconstruction.
Given the intense battle raging within Republican ranks between the GOP establishment and the tea party — not to mention the recent fight in South Carolina by tea party officials to unseat fellow Sen. Lindsey Graham — Mr. Scott’s ability to navigate successfully such treacherous political terrain speaks volumes about his political acumen. Further evidence is the $3.9 million war chest Mr. Scott has on hand for the general election, compared to the paltry $6,000 for his challenger, Richland County Council member Joyce Dickerson.
Meanwhile, as the GOP wages all-out war with itself, Mr. Scott’s historic candidacy could emerge as part of the solution to the Republican Party’s problem attracting women, young voters and people of color — groups the GOP has lost ground with in the past two presidential elections. Mr. Graham, fresh off his own primary victory over six tea party challengers, said of his colleague, who did not endorse his candidacy, “In Tim Scott we have the future of conservatives all over the country … Tim has made history in so many different ways.”
Mr. Scott is now poised to make history in another way: as GOP savior. With House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s stunning defeat by tea party challenger David Brat in Virginia, there is now a power vacuum in the House GOP conference. The victory over Mr. Cantor — one of Washington’s most powerful lawmakers — will undoubtedly embolden the party’s conservative wing. With his massive war chest, influence within the conservative wing of the party and rising profile, Mr. Scott enjoys enormous cachet throughout the party and beyond. He is uniquely positioned to salve the wounds absorbed during bruising primary battles. His fundraising ability can provide a boost to fellow Republicans in November’s general election contests, reinforcing his growing influence within party councils. And his blueprint for attracting elusive minority voters can be replicated at the national level.
Mrs. Haley’s appointment of Mr. Scott has only buttressed her as she, too, appears headed to re-election in November. Could she be the GOP’s answer to an inevitable Hillary Clinton run for the White House in 2016? Could Mr. Scott be a possible running mate for somebody? All big “ifs,” but what is certain is that this tandem of Mrs. Haley and Mr. Scott will be a unifying presence throughout the Republican Party and, more importantly, offer a window into how to woo new voters from non-traditional sources to the GOP brand.
[by Eric Ham, writing for AMERICAN CURRENTSEE]
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