Tim Scott has been a freshman U.S. senator for about 10 months, but he's been running a high-demand travel schedule, visiting at least 16 states — many “red” in their politics — that have provided fertile ground for cash toward next year's election.
Scott's calendar has taken him as far west as California speaking to conservative groups and fundraising for an election year in which, by most accounts, he remains one of the safest-seat politicians in South Carolina.
Scott's latest federal campaign filing shows him with more than $2.3 million cash on hand with no serious challenger announced.
And, unlike the more globally and national defense-oriented fellow Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, Scott has yet to leave the country as a sitting senator, according to the travel list supplied by his office.
Many of Scott's trips have drawn scant media attention. In May he took part in an 80-person “private roundtable” put on by the Lincoln Club of Orange County, Calif., which bills itself as a “premier, nonprofit business organization whose members believe in free markets and pro-growth public policies.” The group also operates a political action committee.
One of the club's leaders said Scott was highly sought after to speak on the Republican agenda in a state where Republicans have repeatedly faltered while trying to replace long-term Senate Democratic incumbents Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein.
“When you are a conservative in California it's kind of a lonely place to be,” said Michael D. Capaldi, chairman emeritus of the group. Of Scott's appeal as a speaker, Capaldi added, “I'm an admirer and have been for a while.”
The PAC's donation meant nearly $5,000 toward Scott's war chest.
Another trip taken to Wisconsin last month drew a little more media attention for its attempted outreach. Scott held a fundraiser in Milwaukee but also took part in a meeting designed to highlight the GOP's outreach toward minorities, sitting down for a roundtable discussion with Milwaukee-area young people at a church, according to media reports. The gathering was sponsored by the African-American caucus of the Wisconsin Republican Party.
Other states on Scott's visit list, as provided by his office, are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming.
The states by no means represent all of Scott's fundraising efforts; they are only the ones he traveled to outside of South Carolina and Washington, D.C., where breakfast, lunch and dinner cash events are popular for all members of Congress.
In 13 of the 16 states visited, Scott's itinerary included a fundraising activity. Some trips were done in relation to his committee assignments on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and the Small Business Committee.
Scott's press office refused requests last week for an interview with the senator about his travel habits, referring to what will be reported on his next quarterly Federal Election Commission filing in October.
Long-time Southern political observer Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said Scott's travel schedule probably is influenced by more than just the usual pressures on Senate incumbents to spend large chunks of their free time raising cash.
Instead, Sabato said the Republican Party is under increased pressure to show that it can attract voters other than its traditional white base.
“It's no secret that the national GOP badly needs to demonstrate its diversity in an increasingly non-white American electorate,” Sabato said. “Right now, the Republicans have the only African-American U.S. senator. Why not tout him? Republicans across the nation appreciate having a minority senator who is clearly conservative.”
Scott was appointed as South Carolina's junior U.S. senator last December by Gov. Nikki Haley to fill the unexpired term of Jim DeMint, who resigned to lead the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank.
Because of South Carolina's election laws, Scott must seek re-election next year to fill the remainder of DeMint's term. Next year will be Scott's first statewide election campaign, after briefly serving as Charleston's 1st Congressional District U.S. representative. He also has shown an aggressive travel schedule around South Carolina, visiting every county.
So far, any talk of challengers, either in a GOP primary or from a Democrat next November, has been minimal. State Sen. John Scott, D-Columbia (no relation to Tim Scott), and Rick Wade, who worked with former Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges and in President Barack Obama's administration, are said to be mulling bids. Each is expected to decide soon on whether to run.
Meanwhile, much of Scott's summertime fundraising haul won't be disclosed until the current reporting quarter ends at the end of this month. Congress was out of Washington for most of August, leaving plenty of time for traveling, speeches and raising campaign cash.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.