Another Republican joins race but Trump remains the frontrunner

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Washington: The field of Republican candidates hoping to beat Donald Trump for the 2024 presidential nomination is growing rapidly, with the only black Republican in the US Senate declaring his candidacy days before Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and others are expected to follow suit.

In a move that was warmly welcomed by Trump himself, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott – a rising star who is pitching himself as the candidate “the far left fears the most” – officially announced his campaign for the White House at a rally in North Charleston on Monday (US time).

Donald Trump, US president at the time, speaks to Senator Tim Scott during a meeting at the White House in 2017.Credit: SMH

“Good luck to Senator Tim Scott in entering the Republican Primary Race,” Trump posted on his Truth Social website, using the opportunity to chide DeSantis.

“It is rapidly loading up with lots of people, and Tim is a big step up from Ron DeSanctimonious, who is totally unelectable.”

Scott joins an ever-expanding list of Republican primary candidates that so far includes Trump’s former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and conservative radio host Larry Elder.

The race is likely to heat up even more within days, when DeSantis and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are expected to enter. Former vice president Mike Pence and former New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu are also considering taking on Trump for a shot at the White House.

Nikki Haley greets supporters in South Carolina in February.Credit: AP

But with Trump currently the frontrunner for the nomination according to most polls, the growing number of rivals is likely to work in his favour if the party is unable to coalesce around one single alternative and his opponents end up splitting the anti-Trump vote.

A similar result played out in 2016 when Trump defeated a fractured, multi-party field of candidates that included senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and moderate Republican John Kasich.

After winning the nomination, Trump went on to defeat Hillary Clinton in a general election also marked by Russian interference. He won despite the former US secretary of state winning the popular vote, thanks to the quirks of America’s electoral college system.

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton has warned about a Trump victory in 2024.Credit: Farrah Tomazin

Speaking at a forum over the weekend, Clinton warned that while she didn’t believe Trump could beat Joe Biden in a general election, “the electoral college is always a difficult outcome to predict”.

Asked what might happen if Trump became president again, she replied: “It would be the end of democracy in the United States.”

“The list of potential disastrous outcomes is longer than I have time to go over,” Clinton told the audience at the Financial Times Weekend Festival in Washington DC.

“It’s why we can’t permit it to happen and why any sensible person who looks at that former president and says: “Oh, let’s do this again” needs an intervention – because he’s only gotten worse.”

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton during a 2016 presidential debate.Credit: AP

Tim Scott’s announcement once again puts the focus on South Carolina, the heavily black state that helped secure Joe Biden’s presidential nomination in 2020.

The 57-year-old is widely respected within the Republican Party, although his positive backstory about coming from a poor family that went from “Cotton to Congress” often contrasts with Trump’s narrative of “retribution” and a “destroyed” America.

“Our party and our nation are standing at a time for choosing: Victimhood or victory?” he told a packed audience at Charleston Southern University on Monday.

“Grievance or greatness? I choose freedom and hope and opportunity.”

Scott was elected to Congress in 2010 but was nominated to run for the Senate two years later by Nikki Haley, another South Carolina local vying for the Republican nomination.

As the first black Republican from South Carolina to serve in the Senate, Scott has used his platform to argue against the view that America has been a land of oppression for black and brown people.

He also championed so-called Opportunity Zones, which incentivise private investment in the poorest communities, and was instrumental in a bill that made lynching a federal hate crime in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.

“I’m the candidate the far left fears the most,” Scott said today. “I disrupt their narrative. I threaten their control.”

The senator has also amassed a massive $US22 million war chest for his campaign. However, whether it will help in the expected race against Trump and his main rival DeSantis is yet to be seen.

According to the latest figures from RealClearPolitics, the former president has a commanding lead of 56.6 per cent against his Republican primary rivals. DeSantis, having not yet formally declared, has 19.4 per cent of the vote; Haley has 4.3 per cent and Scott has less than 2 per cent.

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