(DES MOINES, Iowa) — Sen. Tim Scott has remained fairly neutral in his attacks on his fellow presidential candidates, and this week during a visit to the Iowa State Fair, he steered clear of directly criticizing former President Donald Trump after his fourth indictment, calling it “un-American.”
The South Carolina Republican senator had the fair to himself on Tuesday after several of his GOP rivals rolled through, including former President Donald Trump, who was indicted a fourth time Monday night.
When asked about Trump’s latest indictment, Scott responded, “We see the legal system being weaponized against political opponents that is un-American and unacceptable. At the end of the day, we need a better system than that.”
When asked specifically about the recording of a phone call Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, during which Trump urged him to “find 11,780 votes” – the exact number the former president needed to win in the state, Scott said, “We just draw different conclusions.”
Trump has denied all wrongdoing.
Scott’s rhetoric differed from his fellow GOP presidential candidates when they visited the Iowa State Fair. They used their colliding events to make jabs at one another. A banner reading “Be likeable, Ron!” paid for by Trump’s campaign flew over Gov. Kim Reynolds’ “fair-side” chat with Nikki Haley.
Rather than engage with his rivals, Scott was able to lean on his optimistic message to woo fairgoers. He ate BBQ, flipped pork with Sen. Joni Ernst and even tossed a football with a few attendees. One of them was 11-year-old Dayton Ruby.
“I’ve seen Tim Scott all over YouTube,” said Ruby, who told ABC News he would vote for Scott if he were old enough to vote.
The South Carolina senator’s campaign has invested heavily in ads in the state. Before his arrival, they dropped a radio ad as a part of their $6 million ad-buy in Iowa and New Hampshire titled “Bountiful Harvest.” In it, Scott promises to “support the production of ethanol and other homegrown biofuel,” “stop China from buying our farmland,” “fight for fair trade to ensure our farmers have access to foreign markets” and sell E15, a plant-based fuel often made from corn, year-round.
It’s a tug on the heartstrings of “The Corn State,” which boasts a major agricultural sector. Nearly 85% of Iowa’s land is used for agriculture, according to the USDA.
Despite the heavy ad blitz, Scott still remains firmly in third place amongst Iowans, polling at 9%, according to a new New York Times/Siena College poll. This leaves him still far behind Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who’s polling at 20% and even further from Trump who maintains a big lead at 44%.
Scott’s criticism of other candidates has been minimal. The closest critical comments came when he pushed back on DeSantis over Florida’s new controversial educational guidelines concerning slavery being taught in middle school.
“There is no silver lining in slavery,” Scott said.
His refusal to engage in political attacks appeals to voters such as Kay Rice from Ames, Iowa.
“He’s positive, he’s relaxed, he’s energetic, and I just think he brings not only a fresh face, but he also brings some fresh ideas,” said Rice, who spoke to ABC News after Scott’s tour of the fair.
During lunch with Sen. Ernst, Scott teased a tour of early voting states after the debate. But his poll numbers, despite his investments in the state, may leave one to wonder: is an optimistic message enough?
Voters told ABC News they will be watching to see how he fairs during the upcoming debate in Milwaukee, and if he can differentiate himself from the pack. His campaign says a small team is helping him to prepare for the event.
Ahead of the debate, Scott’s campaign team on Thursday announced a second major ad buy of $8 million in Iowa and New Hampshire that will run through November — making for a total of more than $14 million his campaign will spend on ads in those states. This makes him the only candidate to have ads placed post-Labor Day.
After passing out strips of pork to reporters, Scott was jokingly asked if this was a part of his debate preparation to which he responded, “It’s hot — that’s good news, gotta stay focused — that’s good news, be yourself — better news.”
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.