Asked whether he would be honored to accept an offer from Haley, Scott didn’t deny interest but was noncommittal.
“I think that’s really premature, honestly,” he told McClatchy. “Nikki has a difficult decision to make; she doesn’t really need me weighing in on it through the media. She’ll make it in the interests of South Carolinians and America. I am not going to make any prognosis without having anything to go on besides the prospect of something.”
Scott said he spoke with DeMint on Thursday morning when the senator called the other six Republican members of Congress from South Carolina to tell them he was resigning before making the news public.
Scott, who grew up poor in North Charleston as one of three children of a single mother, responded more carefully when asked whether DeMint had told him he was the senator’s choice to take his seat as junior senator to Sen. Lindsey Graham, also a Republican.
“I don’t recall it being that clear,” Scott said. “We really didn’t spend any meaningful time on who he wanted to replace him.”
Like Obama, Scott doesn’t dwell on race. He sees himself as fulfilling the vision of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. for a colorblind society that will focus more on personal character than skin complexion.
As a member of the Charleston County Commission, Scott spoke out strongly against racial profiling by police and backed a measure to restrain it. But after campaigning for bringing the Confederate flag down from atop the South Carolina Statehouse, he voted to kill a resolution demanding its removal.
If Haley chooses Scott to replace DeMint, and he accepts the appointment, the former high school football star would have to run for re-election in 2014.
That prospect might be the ultimate test for Scott’s party: With Mississippi’s two Reconstruction-era senators having been chosen by their state legislature, voters in the South have never elected an African-American to the Senate.
Tom Snyder, a white business executive with Sunpak Logistics in Sumter, S.C., said Scott has earned his support over the past nearly two decades in his county, state and federal government posts.
“I just don’t judge people by the color of their skin,” Snyder said. “I judge them on their vision of leadership and who they are as a person. And I know Tim Scott as a person who has got a great future.”