Can the nice guy finish first? That’s the question a lot of analysts are asking about the Republican race for president, with headlines such as “Tim Scott is turning heads with donors and early-state voters” and “Tim Scott’s formidable charm meets a tough Republican electorate.” While the South Carolina senator remains well behind front-runner Donald Trump in the national horserace polls, a number of key indicators – from favorability ratings to early-state polling to fundraising – suggest Scott may be the GOP candidate to watch besides the former president or Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Of course, Scott is still not particularly well known. Nearly half (47%) of Republicans nationally haven’t heard enough about him to form an opinion, according to Quinnipiac, compared with 2% for Trump and 11% for DeSantis. Scott has two things on his side that will allow him to gain recognition as the race progresses. First, his campaign has a lot of money. Scott’s apparatus had $21 million in cash on hand as of June 30 – second only to Trump in the Republican primary. DeSantis was in third place with $12 million on hand… A super PAC supporting Scott likewise will get his name out to voters. It has reserved $40 million in ad time at the beginning of the fall across the early nominating states (Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina). Second, voters want to hear more from and about Scott. All the money in the world can’t help a campaign if voters aren’t receptive to the message. (See: Jeb Bush in 2016.) Our CNN/SSRS poll from May revealed that Scott was the candidate GOP voters most wanted to hear more about. A plurality (29%) of Republicans who weren’t selecting Scott in the presidential race said so.