Tim Scott looks to make up for lost time on the campaign trail

OSKALOOSA, Iowa — Sen. Tim Scott appeared at four events in Iowa in all of July. The South Carolina senator matched that count in two days this week, marking his most active stretch on the campaign trail since officially launching his candidacy in May.

It’s part of a planned ramp-up in retail campaigning following last week’s Republican debate in Milwaukee, following months of Senate votes, fundraising trips and debate preparations that kept Scott off the trail at times.

Two days after the debate, Scott made three retail stops in New Hampshire — the same number his campaign lodged over the previous two months. Scott held four events on Monday throughout his home state of South Carolina, the first time the campaign has held public events in the state since the week of its launch. And on Thursday, the senator wrapped up the two-day swing of Iowa, which included time spent with GOP Rep. Randy Feenstra, a prized potential endorser for someone in the Republican field later this year. 

Scott’s ground game in the early states will continue to have a key complement: significant ad buys that make the senator a presence in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina even when he’s not physically there.

His campaign and its affiliated PAC have spent or reserved more than $50 million on early state advertisements, according to the ad-tracking firm AdImpact. It’s a higher figure than any other candidate-super PAC combination, though that could change as other campaigns and super PACs make ad reservations for the fall and winter.

A campaign spokesperson says the current plan is to continue holding retail stops across New Hampshire and Iowa through September. But next week will mark the beginning of the Senate’s fall session, which could complicate Scott’s efforts to be in the states as much as possible.

Scott’s increased campaign activity comes off the heels of a debate performance that saw him largely retreat as other candidates grappled with each other. Scott was among the candidates who spoke the least at the Aug. 23 debate. 

Scott has framed his muted performance as a sign of maturity.

“I think the way you get more time on the debate stage can’t be being a part of a food fight.” Scott told reporters after an Iowa town hall Wednesday. “It cannot be insulting other folks so you get a chance to respond to that back and forth.”

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