COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Tim Scott abruptly announced late Sunday that he was dropping out of the 2024 race, a development that surprised his donors and stunned his campaign staff just two months before the start of voting in Iowa’s leadoff GOP caucuses.
The South Carolina senator, who entered the race in May with high hopes, made the surprise announcement on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Night in America” with Trey Gowdy, one of his closest friends. The news was so unanticipated that one campaign worker told The Associated Press that campaign staff found out Scott was dropping out by watching the show.
“I love America more today than I did on May 22,” Scott said Sunday. “But when I go back to Iowa, it will not be as a presidential candidate. I am suspending my campaign. I think the voters who are the most remarkable people on the planet have been really clear that they’re telling me, ‘Not now, Tim.’”
Scott’s impending departure comes as he and the rest of the GOP field have struggled in a race that has been dominated by former President Donald Trump. Despite four criminal indictments and a slew of other legal challenges, Trump continues to poll far ahead of his rivals, leading many in the party to conclude the race is effectively over, barring some stunning change of fortune.
Scott, in particular, has had trouble gaining traction in the polls, despite millions spent on his behalf by high-profile donors. In his efforts to run a positive campaign, he was often overshadowed by other candidates — particularly on the debate stage, where he seemed to disappear as others sparred. It was unclear whether Scott would qualify for the upcoming fourth debate, which will require higher polling numbers and more donors.
Scott is the second major candidate to leave the race since the end of October. Former Vice President Mike Pence suspended his campaign two weeks ago, announcing at a Republican Jewish Coalition gathering in Las Vegas that “This is not my time.” Pence, however, was polling behind Scott and was in a far more precarious financial position.
Scott said he wouldn’t immediately be endorsing any of his remaining Republican rivals.
“The voters are really smart,” Scott said. “The best way for me to be helpful is to not weigh in on who they should endorse.”
He also appeared to rule out serving as vice president, saying the No. 2 slot “has never been on my to-do list for this campaign, and it’s certainly not there now.”
Scott’s departure leaves Nikki Haley, Trump’s first United Nations ambassador and the former South Carolina governor, as the sole South Carolinian in the race. As governor, Haley appointed Scott — then newly elected to his second U.S. House term — to the Senate in 2012, and the fact that both were in the 2024 race had created an uncomfortable situation for many of the donors and voters who had supported them both through the years.
It also sparked some unpleasant on-stage moments during the first three GOP debates, with the longtime allies — who for a time had also shared political consultants — trading tense jabs. After the surprise announcement, some of Scott’s donors said they would be switching to back Haley in the primary.
In a post on X on Sunday night, Haley called Scott “a good man of faith and an inspiration to so many,” adding that the GOP primary “was made better by his participation in it.”