S.C.'s Tim Scott Won't Endorse In Primary; Thinks Gingrich Will Win : It's All Politics Rep. Tim Scott said the Charleston debate didn't help him decide who to vote for less than 24 hours before the South Carolina primary. And while he's not willing to endorse anyone, he was willing to go out on a limb and say that he thought Gingrich would win narrowly, which, in its way, might be as good as an endorsement.
NPR logo S.C.'s Tim Scott Won't Endorse In Primary; Thinks Gingrich Will Win

S.C.'s Tim Scott Won't Endorse In Primary; Thinks Gingrich Will Win

Rep. Tim Scott. Brett Flashnick/AP hide caption

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Brett Flashnick/AP

One of the Republican Party's rising stars, Rep. Tim Scott of South Carolina, has decided he won't endorse anyone for Saturday's GOP presidential primary.

And while he's not endorsing, he's making a prediction: that Newt Gingrich will win South Carolina. That's not an endorsement, mind you, but it's certainly the sort of statement that could prove helpful to the Gingrich campaign.

Scott's decision not to endorse is noteworthy because Scott had earlier indicated as recently as this week that he would likely throw in behind a candidate.

But he apparently shares some of the same ambivalence about the candidates you hear from many rank-and-file Republican voters.

According to a report by Robert Behre in The Post and Courier, not only is Scott, who represents the Charleston area, not endorsing, he told the paper he doesn't even know who he's going to vote for.

An excerpt:

"The first-term Lowcountry Republican said earlier this week he still was looking at three candidates and might throw his support behind one of them before South Carolina voters go to the polls Saturday.

"But he said today that Thursday night's debate didn't clarify his thinking and he still is deciding who he will vote for tomorrow.

" 'At this late date, I'm not sure how much my endorsement would mean,' he added.

"Scott predicted former Speaker Newt Gingrich will win tomorrow 'in a photo finish.' He also predicted 25 percent or more of state voters will vote for someone other than who they planned to support a week or two ago."

Scott truly appears to be very popular with South Carolina Republicans, who will tell you how much they like him with little to no prompting, as I learned during a recent trip to South Carolina.

Some told me how much they appreciated his hosting of a series of town hall meetings that allowed them to meet and hear all the presidential candidates with the exception of his fellow congressional colleague, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.

By not endorsing, Scott joins fellow Tea Party movement favorite Sen. Jim DeMint who also declined to endorse any of the presidential candidates.

Both men took a different tack than another South Carolina politician — Gov. Nikki Haley — who had also enjoyed Tea Party support but has seen that erode after she endorsed Romney.

Her endorsement of the former Massachusetts governor could be viewed as an act of political loyalty since Romney backed her in her successful run for the governorship in 2010.

Even so, many in South Carolina Tea Party groups aren't about to forget that she supported a candidate they believe is antithetical to their conservative principles.

Scott did get Gingrich's support when the first-term congressman was running in 2010. Romney also endorsed him in 2010. That certainly could make it harder for someone in Scott's position to commit to one candidate or another.

By not endorsing, Scott may avoid some of the blowback from establishment Republicans, as well as Tea Party activists.