There was some surprise last night when Scott’s endorsement was announced, although Hot Air readers knew it was more or less in the bag a month ago. (Scott appeared at a Rubio rally in South Carolina in mid-December.) The news leaked as the votes were being counted in Iowa, which started some speculation that Team Rubio thought they were going to underperform and needed positive buzz to distract from the results. So much for that theory. I think the real message of announcing Scott’s endorsement during the Iowa vote was that Rubio’s in this for the long haul. He’s already looking past New Hampshire to Scott’s home state of South Carolina. And of course it’s an implicit rebuke to Cruz, who hasn’t landed the endorsement of a single Senate colleague (yet). Scott is respected on the right as a “true conservative,” a tea-party favorite who, in theory, should be with Cruz. Nope. Team Rubio. For Cruz’s Senate endorsements, it may be Jeff Sessions or bust.
In many ways Scott is the perfect Rubio endorsement. He’s got the sort of conservative cred that Rubio once had among his detractors on the right and is trying to rebuild after the Gang of Eight debacle. He’s an influential officeholder from an early primary state. Like Rubio, he comes from a humble background and has risen to hold high federal office, the American dream in action. And of course he’s living proof that the GOP isn’t exclusively a party of old white guys. Emily Zanotti notes the symbolism:
Senator Tim Scott is the first black Senator [since Reconstruction] elected from the “deep south.” He was appointed, initially, by a female governor, herself a woman of color, a child of immigrants and a Catholic. He is throwing his support behind the Hispanic son of immigrants who escaped Communist Cuba, the night after more than 60% of Republican Iowa caucus-goers voted for a minority – Hispanic, black, or female – to win the Presidential nomination. Even if you’re not a fan of Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Dr. Ben Carson or Carly Fiorina, you have to appreciate what that means for the “party of old white people.” Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, both lily-white septugenarians – literally old white people – are arguing over .4% of a vote that drew only half as many caucus-goers as in 2008, flipping coins for delegates and lobbing accusations of voter fraud.
Rubio’s running as the future of the party, on a message of opportunity. Who better to echo that than Tim Scott? The money line: “It’s not about where you start, it’s about where you’re going.” His other core point here is electability, which you’ll hear again and again from Team Marco as they veer towards a long war with Cruz. Ace objects that Rubio’s electability is overstated given his tepid reception among Republican voters so far. Fair enough, but there is data suggesting that he’d appeal more to key groups in the general election than Cruz or Trump would. I don’t take “electability” claims as an insult to my intelligence, just a tactful reminder that not all constituencies are as willing or unwilling to support a candidate as grassroots conservatives might be. Which is not to say that those claims should be taken at face value: The best way to prove you’re electable is to, um, win some elections. Big test for Rubio coming up in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
So, as the candidates arm up for war in South Carolina, that makes Scott for Rubio, Lindsey Graham for Jeb Bush (giggle), and Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster for Trump. There’s still a major wild card out there who I once thought for sure would line up for Rubio but lately have begun to doubt. Which way is Nikki Haley going? She’s not going to wimp out and refuse to endorse in the primary, is she?
Update: Whoops — forgot that Trey Gowdy is already on Team Rubio too. And if Jeb flames out in New Hampshire, Graham could be aboard the Rubio express by the time South Carolina votes.