All in on Iowa and race talk: Tim Scott wants to revive a struggling campaign

Sen. Tim Scott, struggling to gain traction less than three months before the Republican primary is on the ballot, came to Chicago’s South Side on Monday to rebuke the welfare state and liberal politicians he dismissed as “desperate drug dealers.” .

The speech was given at New Beginnings Church in the impoverished Woodlawn neighborhood. It may have been delivered to Black Chicagoans, but the South Carolina senator’s criticism of the “radical left,” the first black vice president, Kamala Harris, and the “liberal elites” who want a “worthless, faithless, fatherless America where the government becomes God” — were aimed at the far to the audience. That audience included Republican voters in the primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, as well as donors who had broken away from his campaign.

His political persona as a “happy warrior” has given way to antagonism between black leaders governing the nation’s third-largest city and a Democratic Party that “would rather lower the bar for colored people than raise the bar for their own leadership.”

Speaking to a mostly receptive audience at a church led by a charismatic Republican pastor, Mr. Scott added, “They say they want low-income Americans and people of color to rise up, but their actions are taking us in the opposite direction. Actions say they want us to sit down, shut up and remember to vote as long as we vote blue.”

The speech came just minutes before a call from Scott campaign staff announcing that the senator’s once-floundering campaign would move most of its resources and staff to Iowa in a last-ditch effort to win the first club of the season and save the campaign.

“Tim Scott is all in on Iowa,” his campaign manager Jennifer DeCasper said in a statement.

Mr. Scott, the first black Republican senator from the South in more than a century, launched his presidential bid in May with a slate of prominent Republicans behind him, a $22 million war chest and a message of optimism that set him apart from the crowd. primary field. His message about race, delivered as a son of South Carolina, where slavery was deeply rooted and where the Civil War began, resonated with many white Republicans, while many black Democrats found it naïve and offensive.

“If you stop at our original sin, you haven’t started the story of America, because the story of America is not defined by our original sin,” he said earlier this year while considering a presidential run. “The story of America is defined by our redemption.”

But from the start, even supporters have wondered aloud whether optimism and uplift are what Republican voters want, after so many years of Donald J. Trump and a growing culture of revenge in the GOP

Last weekend, Don Schmidt, 78, a retired banker from Hudson, Iowa, bluntly told Mr. Scott as the senator campaigned in Cedar Falls before the University of Northern Iowa beat the University of North Dakota in football. Mr. Schmidt told Mr. Scott that he was considering endorsing him or Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina.

“But,” he warned, “I don’t know if you can beat Trump.”

Race has been a particularly problematic topic for Mr. Scott of late. He immediately asserted that there is no systemic racism in the United States, but he also talked about his grandfather being forced out of school in the third grade to pick cotton in the Jim Crow South, and his own run-in with the police simply because he drove a new car .

His Monday South Side audience was the grandchildren of black workers who left the segregated South during the Great Migration to lean on the industrializing Upper Midwest. And he seemed to provoke the backlash he received after the speech as part of the political theater.

Rodrick Wimberly, a 54-year-old member of the New Beginnings Church, did not believe that Mr. Scott really doesn’t believe that the failures of some black people are caused by systemic barriers. He initiated a red line that kept Black Chicagoans out of safer neighborhoods with better schools and discrimination that suppressed Black entrepreneurship and home ownership.

“What we’re seeing in education, housing, the growing wealth gap, there are statistics that show or suggest, at the very least, there are some issues that are systemic,” Mr. Wimberly told the senator. “It’s not just individual.”

But Mr. Scott stood his ground, just as he had since June, when the senator tried to drum up interest in his campaign by clashing on the television show “The View” over claims he didn’t “get” American racism.

When Mr. When Wimberly suggested that the failing education system was an example of systemic racism holding black people out of Chicago, Mr. Scott responded, “But who runs that system? Black people run that system.”

However, such sparring mostly failed to boost his campaign. On Saturday, his native newspaper, Post and Courier of Charleston, he advised Mr. Scott and other Republican candidates to drop out and support Ms. Haley as the candidate best positioned to challenge Mr. Trump in the primaries, which begin in less than three months.

Last week, Mr. Scott’s super PAC, Trust in the Mission PAC, or TIM PAC, told donors it would cancel “all of our fall media inventory.”

“We will not spend money when the electorate is not focused or ready for a Trump alternative,” Rob Collins, a Republican strategist who co-chairs the super PAC, wrote in a scathing memo.

As Bill Brune, 73, a Republican and military veteran from La Motte, Iowa, said this weekend, “There are a lot of good people out there, but they don’t get attention. Good guys finish last.”

Republican politicians, including Mr. Trump, who has a glitzy high-rise hotel on the Chicago River, have for years used the city as a proxy for urban decay and violence, though that portrait is incomplete at best. Vivek Ramaswamy, another Republican presidential candidate, came to another South Side neighborhood three miles from New Beginnings in May to discuss tensions among black residents over the city’s efforts to accommodate an influx of migrants, many of whom were bussed there from the border by Greg Abbott from Texas, but also to show his willingness to speak to an audience that Republican candidates tend to ignore.

The appearance on Monday was, in fact, Mr. Scott on adopting — and amplifying — the flair of Mr. Ramaswamy for dramatics. Shabazz Muhammad (51) was released from prison in 2020 after serving 31 years. Since then, he said, he has struggled to find work and housing because of his record and what he called “societal landmines.” Apart from the candidate’s criticism of the welfare state, Mr Muhammad wanted to know what Mr Scott wanted to do to help people like him.

Mr Scott, while sympathetic, was unflinching in his description of welfare policies as “colossal, crippling, permanent failures”.

“Are we tough enough to get better and not bitter?” he asked his audience.

Neil Vigdor contributed reporting from Iowa.

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