December 17, 2012

The Post reports on the naming of Sen. Jim DeMint’s successor: “South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) announced Monday that she will appoint Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) to the Senate. … Sen.-designate Scott, 47, will become the only African-American currently serving in the Senate and the first black Republican to serve in the upper chamber since the 1970s. He will also be the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction.”


Tim Scott, who will replace Jim DeMint in the Senate (Melina Mara / The Washington Post)

Other than any South Carolina Democrats eyeing that seat, the pick makes nearly everyone happy. Haley, whose conservative bona fides are weak in the state, gets a boost for picking a rock-solid conservative. Scott is a rarity: a Republican liked by tea partyers and inside-the-Beltway Republicans. And at a time the GOP is suffering from a diversity problem, it is helpful to have Scott join the Senate on the Republican side.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) often tangled with DeMint. Today his communications director Don Stewart was cheery about Scott’s selection: “I think he’ll be great.” In his formal statement, McConnell was euphoric:

As a solid conservative who fights hard for the values and principles he believes in, Tim will help us find real, lasting solutions to the economic challenges facing our nation in the 113th Congress. This is truly an historic moment for the Palmetto State from a Governor who’s broken more than a few barriers in her own career.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was effusive in a written statement, saying, “I applaud Governor Nikki Haley’s decision to send Tim Scott to represent the people of South Carolina in the United States Senate. I’ve gotten to know Congressman Scott since his election to the House of Representatives two years ago and know him to be a passionate, thoughtful and sincere advocate for the people of South Carolina and for limited government principles.”

Another Capitol Hill Republican dubbed Scott a “smart, pragmatic conservative.” It is noteworthy that two establishment Republicans in the House, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), backed him in a contentious primary against Strom Thurmond’s son, a reminder of just how important primary selections can be.

As conservative journalist Quin Hillyer put it:

Now some might argue that Scott’s single term in Congress makes him a less qualified person for the Senate than some others who might have been chosen. But that ignores his 13 years on the Charleston City Council (four as chairman), his term in the state legislature, and his record of from-the-bootstraps successful business development. This extensive background in entrepreneurship and in more local levels of government is, arguably, exactly what is needed in the Senate. It should make him more dedicated to principles of federalism, and keep him better grounded. And it provided him with great experience in down-home, practical politics. He’s not just a talking head; Tim Scott is somehow who produces results.

That would be a difference in style and strategy from DeMint (with whom Scott is close and who praised the pick.) Scott will take on a symbolic role in the Senate disproportionate to his low seniority. As a well-liked conservative and a trailblazer (as well as DeMint’s favored replacement), his voice will certainly carry some weight. If he continues as a principled but effective conservative, he has the potential to make the GOP caucus more cohesive and the Senate less dysfunctional.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.