Myrtle Beach, S.C. - If he decides to endorse a presidential candidate before the South Carolina primary, Congressman Tim Scott says the candidate's electability will factor heavily into his decision.
Scott is a conservative freshman congressman representing the Charleston area who is also an African-American and a Tea-Party favorite, his endorsement has become highly coveted on the campaign trail in the Palmetto State.
Asked whether a moderate or a conservative has a better chance at beating President Obama, Scott said, "That is the question: whether or not you believe that contrast is necessary to make a case. Or do you want someone who is far more moderate who will be in a position where you get to move to the right, but not significantly to the far right."
Rep. Scott, who credited Gingrich with helping Tea Party candidates like himself get elected in 2010, said Gingrich is still on his list of 2-3 candidates he is thinking about endorsing but expressed hesitation about the candidate.
"There's no doubt that Newt has done a lot to earn the endorsement in many ways, but obviously I'm not at a point where he's done enough," he said. The former House Speaker joined Rep. Scott at a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration held at Canal Street Recreation Center Monday morning, where the presidential candidate gave brief remarks along with Rick Perry to a predominantly African American audience of about 250 people.
The South Carolina congressman initially declined to comment directly about the controversy surrounding Gingrich's misstatement that he would address the NAACP and tell them they deserve pay checks and not food stamps.
"What I thought about his comments this morning is far more important than what I thought about his comments then," Scott said to reporters. "What I thought about his comments this morning is that it was indicative of the fact that he's a guy that's continuing to evolve...You think about the path he's taken here since 1979 being one of the original co-sponsors of the bill to make King's holiday a dream come true; there's no doubt that we continue to see a lot of progress."
But in what could be interpreted as a sharp assessment of Gingrich's controversial remarks, Rep. Scott added," When you find something that you can divide the country in order to conquer it from the left or from the right, absolutely you find comments all the time, but I'm not going to comment them."
Gingrich consistently says to all audiences that Americans deserve a paycheck president and not a food stamp president, but raised eyebrows when he said that, as part of his effort to reach out to all Americans, he'd address the annual NAACP convention and tell them they deserve paychecks and not food stamps. Since then, Gingrich has appeared before black audiences as what could be interpreted as an effort to improve relations, taking questions at an African American church Saturday in Columbia and attending the MLK celebration this morning.
"I would just suggest to you that Dr. King would ask us today not just to look back and remember but to look forward, to look to the young people in this room, to look to the young people who aren't in this room, to ask ourselves to what degree can we give to them the same spirit of hope, the same idealism, the same belief in America, the same understanding that salvation comes from faith in God, and that together we can in fact create a dramatically better future for all Americans of every background," Gingrich said to the audience Monday morning.