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Tim Scott enters 2024 presidential race
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., announces that he's running for president Monday. Peter Zay / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Four takeaways from Tim Scott’s interview with NBC News

Scott didn’t want to talk about Trump, but he weighed in on a wide range of issues.

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Shortly after Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., launched his presidential run on Monday, he sat down with NBC News’ Tom Llamas for a wide-ranging interview

Here are four takeaways from the sit-down with Scott: 

1. Scott didn’t want to talk about Trump

Scott declined to directly criticize or draw a distinction with former President Donald Trump, the current frontrunner for the GOP nomination. 

Asked what changed since Scott previously said he would support Trump, Scott said that “we have to have a president that persuades, not just within our base, but even on the other side of the aisle. I know I am the candidate that best gets that done.”

Scott also declined to criticize Trump’s actions during the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol, choosing instead to change the subject. Scott did not object to certifying the 2020 Electoral College votes.

“We can do two things here, we can have a conversation about President Trump or we can have a conversation about my vision for the future,” Scott said. 

2. Scott pledged to sign “most conservative” abortion bill

Scott described himself as a “100% pro-life conservative” and reiterated his pledge to “sign the most conservative legislation, pro-life legislation that can get to my desk.” But it’s not exactly clear what Scott thinks that legislation should look like.

The South Carolina Republican noted that he co-sponsors a 20-week abortion ban, and he supports a proposal to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. But he declined to say if he supports other measures, such as a 12-week ban or a six-week ban that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, another potential presidential contender, recently signed into law. 

“Listen, one of the things that we have to wrestle with is how do we protect the culture of life? I celebrate states that actually get the culture of life in the focus and get something done,” Scott said when asked about the Florida ban. “As a nation we’re gonna have to have a serious conversation, first about how we find a path through Congress.” 

3. Scott plans to leverage his personal story 

Scott did draw some indirect contrasts with Trump and DeSantis, the top two candidates in recent primary polling, by highlighting his personal story and message. 

“So the truth is that what people really want is an optimistic, positive, conservative who has a backbone but also believes that the best is yet to come,” Scott said. 

“What they want is someone who’s willing to stand in the arena for what you believe then,” he later added. “And I believe that common sense leads to common ground. So I don’t think you have to be a pessimist to be strong.”

Scott touted his work in the Senate, particularly on the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The only Black Republican senator, Scott reiterated a message from his launch speech, which noted his ascent from humble beginnings to the U.S. Senate.

“Having a chance to allow my life to disprove the lies of the left is just critically important,” Scott said. 

4. Scott broke with DeSantis, Trump on Ukraine

One of the few areas where Scott more openly broke with Trump and DeSantis was on the ongoing war in Ukraine. 

“I think that we should be in Ukraine,” Scott said. “I believe that the truth is simple, that degrading the Russian military is in America’s best interest. And the more we do that, the faster we get it done, the better off the entire world is.”

Scott said he “obviously” disagreed with DeSantis’ previous comments that the war in Ukraine is not a “vital” U.S. interest, describing the war as a “territorial dispute” with Russia.  DeSantis later walked back those remarks, calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a "war criminal."

At first Scott did not directly criticize Trump’s recent refusal during a CNN town hall to say if Ukraine or Russia should win the war. But asked directly if he hopes Ukraine wins the war, Scott said, “Of course.”