Less than 24 hours after a surprise announcement that he was dropping his presidential bid, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina is visiting with staff at the campaign’s Charleston headquarters, according to a campaign official — following a short Sunday night call with bewildered campaign workers who were surprised by the end of Scott’s 2024 run.
Scott acknowledged to his staff that the announcement — made during an evening appearance on Fox News — “may have caught you by surprise.” But he argued that he tried to be “strategic” with the timing and fashion of the drop-out, according to multiple sources on the call.
It all marks an official and swift end to Scott’s monthslong presidential quest, one marred by a media-shy campaign strategy, senior staff lacking presidential campaign experience and, most of all, a GOP electorate reluctant to leave former President Donald Trump behind. Scott saw his positive conservative message as something that embodied everything the GOP once hoped to aspire to. But it also represents much of what the GOP has left behind in its quest to stay true to Trump and his vitriolic brand of politics.
Multiple sources close to the Scott campaign say the senator’s bid was hampered by “leadership that never figured themselves out,” noting several “strategic errors” that affected the campaign’s ability to capitalize on a surge of momentum it experienced in August ahead of the Iowa state fair and the first primary debate.
A source close to the campaign’s leadership called that criticism “nonsense,” citing an electorate that remained supportive of Trump above all others.
And while the fashion with which Scott left the race was shocking, the writing was on the wall that the campaign was coming to a close.
Only a few weeks prior, Scott’s team decided to go “all in” on Iowa, shifting resources to the Hawkeye State. When announcing the move to staff — widely seen as a last-ditch move by flagging campaigns — top brass, including campaign manager Jennifer DeCasper and communications director Nathan Brand, were speaking from a moving car, with cellphone signals breaking up in frustrating fashion for those listening in. Scott was also in the car during the call.
Scott didn’t say a word during the call, according to four sources with knowledge of the event, even as he shared the line with the people who’d moved their lives to work for his presidential dream.
The pro-Scott super PAC, Trust In the Mission, or, TIM PAC, also abandoned him, canceling millions in planned ad buys in the early primary states and telling donors in a blunt October memo: “We aren’t going to waste our money when the electorate isn’t focused or ready for a Trump alternative.”
Though widely talked about as a possible vice presidential pick, whether for Trump or another nominee, Scott signaled Sunday night that he’s not rushing to endorse anyone else for president. But in leaving the race Sunday, Scott vowed to staff that his “mission” would continue. In what form, that remains to be seen.
Ali Vitali is a Capitol Hill correspondent for NBC News, based in Washington.
Nnamdi Egwuonwu is a 2024 NBC News campaign embed.