CHARLESTON, S.C. — There are times when Sen. Tim Scott, the lone Republican African-American in Congress, would like to turn down the volume on some of the shrill and inflammatory comments from his fellow senators.
“Yes,” Scott told “This Week.” “I mean just to be blunt? Absolutely.”
Whose microphone would he go after first?
“I can’t be that blunt,” he said with a laugh, but added he could name several from both sides of the aisle. “We could turn it down a little bit and look for ways to work together.”
Scott, a South Carolina Republican, is one of the newest members of the Senate. He was appointed to his seat by Gov. Nikki Haley, filling the vacancy created by the retirement of Sen. Jim DeMint, and is running for election in November.
Besides being the only Republican African-American in Congress, he is also the first black Southern Senator since Reconstruction. He said the Republican Party could start making gains diversifying their ranks by changing their tone.
“We have to be intentional about our approach to reaching out to every single voter,” Scott said. “We don’t simply need to win the demographic war. We need to win the war of ideas. We need to be in a position to share our ideas in places where we haven’t traditionally gone.”
Scott said Republicans should also spend more time focusing on the poor and middle-class and improving access to education, which is at the heart of what he calls an “Opportunity Agenda” he is promoting in South Carolina and in speeches across the country.
“There’s always room for improvement, without any question,” Scott said. “One of the things I’ve said very consistently is that we have to play in the education space. My life was changed because of public education.”
Scott, 48, has ascended from the Charleston County Council to the House of Representatives to the Senate in less than five years. He is a rising star among tea party conservatives.
“He’s a core conservative,” said John Steinberger, an early tea party activist who is now the chairman of the Charleston County Republican Party. “He articulates what he believes and resonates really well with South Carolina Republicans. He’ll hopefully grow the Republican Party and make other people realize we’re the party of opportunity.”
Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., is skeptical that Scott has had any influence on the Republican approach to governing.
“It’s always good to have diversity, but diversity can be skin color and it can be philosophy,” Clyburn said. “I would hope that the Republican Party would be a little more diversified in its approach to governance.”
For his part, Scott said he is working to strike an optimistic message for the Republican Party. He said the party should improve its salesmanship.
“There’s no doubt that if you’re looking for a way to make a difference, you have to understand the sales cycle,” Scott said. “You have to have rapport and credibility. You have to uncover the problem, present a solution, overcome the options and repeat the process so it works.”
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