Senator Tim Scott is supposedly preparing to run for the White House. Is America primed to accept a nice guy for president?
Yeah, I know, one half of the folks on today’s political spectrum claim a nice guy already occupies the Oval Office. In 2020, after four years of the always edgy Donald Trump as president, those who were conditioned to seeing a compliant and well-mannered person appearing on American TV screens every day behaved as though they had PTSD and voted for what they thought was a different type of personality to represent the country.
Not me, mind you. I couldn’t care less whether former president Trump was widely-liked or not. Trump’s consistent willingness to name names and call out the guilty – especially those in the establishment media – was, in my opinion, just what American politics needed from its preeminent leader. It’s not that I am, or was, against a “good guy” signing executive orders and bills from Congress, I just felt a truth teller, no matter how direct, was necessary to govern in extraordinarily difficult times.
Many countrymen chose senile president Joe Biden for a different reason – namely, that he could get along with everyone. The corporate media insisted Biden would restore a tone of moderation to American politics. After all, Biden had served all those decades in the senate where he was branded with the nickname “Lunch Bucket Joe” and was said to be the type of man you could sit down and have a cheeseburger with at the backyard picnic table and swap stories about the way things used to be without getting angry or upset.
Those who’d regularly followed Biden’s career – first as senator and then vice president – understood otherwise. Senile Joe frequently pretended to be a nice guy, but beneath the phony surface veneer was a mean, vindictive, corrupted career politician who would step on anyone’s neck to get ahead. Biden was Hillary Clinton without the golden locks, or Ted Kennedy without the drinking and carousing habit.
If you don’t believe it, ask Justice Clarence Thomas what he thinks of Biden’s public persona.
Joe Biden is no nice guy. He’s only been president for a little over two years but already he’s alienated most of the folks who figured he’d welcome working with Republicans to solve some of the nation’s most pressing issues. Rather than offer olive branches, Biden called names (“MAGA fascist”) and locked principled opponents out of important legislative negotiations.
With the combatants all-but determined in the 2024 presidential race, it looks as though the political warfare will continue. But now there’s a consensus-building, “unity” promoting Republican senator who’s rumored to be planning a run, and if he were to somehow get a foothold on the GOP’s nomination, it could mark the return of “niceness” to the White House.
“[Tim] Scott hasn’t made a formal decision on a 2024 run but has moved quickly to lay the groundwork for a campaign. He’s begun hiring staffers and courting would-be donors, headlining the closing dinner of the Club for Growth’s annual donor retreat in Palm Beach, Fla., last weekend.
“His message has, so far, been one of optimism. While he has railed against what he has called Democrats’ politics of ‘victimhood’ and ‘despair,’ he’s also laid out a lofty vision for ‘a new American sunrise.’
“It’s a tempting message for some Republicans, who have grown weary of the grievance-driven politics of the era of former President Trump. Yet many Republicans say they’re unsure of Scott’s prospects in a GOP primary, arguing that his themes of optimism and unity may not get him far with a conservative base eager for a fight.”
I share that skepticism. For far too long conservative and Republican voters were sold a bill of goods on presidential candidates – that they needed to be “presidential” and refrain from making hard-hitting attacks on the liberal opposition in the name of being the “better person” and keeping politics on a higher plane.
Recall how John McCain utterly rejected the notion he should use Pastor Jeremiah Wright’s anti-American sermons against church parishioner Barack Obama, which took away the Republicans’ best line of disqualifying attack at the time. Then there was Mitt Romney’s refusal to use the shameful Benghazi terrorist episode against Obama in 2012. Obama’s “woke” refusal to say the words “radical Islam” exposed his true loyalties, or lack thereof.
This establishment hesitation to jump into the political mosh pit turned conservatives even further against the Bush blueblood GOP and created the conditions from which an outsider like Donald Trump could emerge from obscurity to not only win the party presidential nomination, but bring in millions of new voters and prevail in the general election in addition. Trump’s was the new formula for success in the Republican Party.
Therefore, Tim Scott’s unity-centered message isn’t likely to alter the pattern. As I recall, former Ohio governor John Kasich tried advancing a similar “unity” strategy in 2016. Kasich became so disgusted with Trump’s scorched earth politics that he all-but left the party. He refused to endorse Trump in the general election and came out for Joe Biden in 2020. Talk about a turncoat!
Have things changed enough since then that Tim Scott could succeed with this type of message this year? Time will tell, but Scott conceivably could get his shot.
It’s been a theory of mine for a while now, that practically every major candidate (at least on the Republican side) within a party presidential field will have his or her moment. It’s part of the “dating” process all primary voters go through, where they mentally travel from one candidate to the next to see whether the things they don’t like about the other contenders might be corrected and solved by choosing the next one.
Take 2008, for example, when “Maverick” John McCain was widely viewed as the GOP’s “next in line” and the frontrunner for the nomination. When McCain failed to catch fire early in the campaign, conservatives also glanced towards Rudy Giuliani, then Fred Thompson, then Mitt Romney, then Mike Huckabee – and a couple others -- before finally returning to McCain as the most widely acceptable politician of all, though McCain’s campaign turned out to be a predictable disaster.
In 2012, voters flirted with Mitt Romney, then Michele Bachmann, then “Pizza Man” Herman Cain, then Newt Gingrich then Ron Paul (sort of), then Gov. Rick Perry (briefly), then Rick Santorum and then, with all potential options expended, returned to Romney hoping he would be a principled man like he insisted he was. Yeah, sure.
In 2016, in no particular order, there was Jeb Bush, then Donald Trump, then Gov. Scott Walker, then Rand Paul, then Chris Christie, then Ben Carson, then Carly Fiorina, then Rick Santorum (again), then Mike Huckabee (again), then Marco Rubio, then Ted Cruz… and back to Trump again. At one point in the race, it’s arguable that each of these candidates got a thorough once-over from voters to see if they possessed the “it” factor.
Such will likely be the case again this year, even if it now looks like only Trump and DeSantis will receive most of the consideration. I could envision a scenario where voters tire of the Trump/DeSantis back-and-forth at some point in the fall, after the debates begin and each of the leaders stumbles in some noticeable way. Polls will go back and forth, though Trump’s numbers never will dip below a certain level because of his loyal-to-a-fault “always Trump” base.
DeSantis is a terrific politician, but he will need to vie for the biggest slice of the anyone-but-Trump GOP pie. Will this group be large enough to allow several competing bids from contenders like Nikki Haley and Tim Scott at different times? Again, time will tell.
Here’s thinking many Republican voters will give Tim Scott a thorough review because his race makes him stand out in the otherwise mostly demographically homogeneous field (though it should be noted two of the current declared candidates are Indian-American). Identity politics doesn’t play nearly the role in the GOP that it does in Democrat-land, but an African-American politician who promises to bring the country together will seem very appealing in today’s heated partisan environment.
Scott’s personal background will also draw interest, as he’s a rags-to-riches success story and the embodiment of the American Dream, similar to the “lane” pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson occupied in 2016. The question for 2024 is whether Tim Scott can take the opportunity and turn it into consistent fundraising – and votes. Flash-in-the-pan candidates don’t last long, particularly those without a campaign brand that doesn’t go much beyond “unity”.
“Unity” won’t get the economy rolling. Somewhere along the line there has to be substance… unless you’re a Democrat. Liberals just care about what you look like and who you identify as… and with.
Nice guys don’t always finish last, but they tend not to get too far in American politics without the kind of internal drive that allows one to excel and do whatever it takes to win. Senator Tim Scott is an accomplished man and is regarded as the type of “nice guy” that people can work with. Does he have the temperament and requisite ambition to make a presidential run? Time will tell.
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