The Tennessee Republican Party’s annual Statesmen’s Dinner Friday night saw the ballroom at Nashville’s new Music City Center packed with a who’s who of state GOP-ers from up and down the ticket including Gov. Bill Haslam, U.S. Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander and seven members of the state’s U.S. House delegation.
But the big draw of the evening’s program — part award ceremony for local party stalwarts, part partisan pep-rally — was a fresh senator from another southern red state, Tim Scott from South Carolina.
In a recent letter to the Tennessean, state Republican Party Chair Chris Devaney called Scott as a “rising national star,” praising him as “refreshing voice of principle who is guided by an unyielding faith in God and rock-ribbed Republican values of less government influence and individual liberty.”
In his keynote address Friday, Scott, who served as U.S. congressman for two years before being tapped by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to fill a vacant Senate seat in January, struck an optimistic note, predicting political gains in upcoming elections. But Scott told the crowd Republicans need to reach out and connect with citizens to find success in the ballot box.
“Where we are as a country, it doesn’t look very good. I understand that we have major challenges in this nation but I also understand that the greatest days of America is ahead of it,” Scott told the audience. “I think we can win back the Senate in 2014, we have a grand opportunity in front of us and America will give us an opportunity to lead again in the Senate.”
“There are a couple things that we have to remember in order to get there,” he continued. “The first thing is this, that America, they want to know how much we know but they want to know it after they understand how much we care. Our ability to achieve success in the Senate and maintain the House will be our ability to communicate our message effectively.”
Sen. Scott also predicted a Republican return to the White House in 2016, saying it would be a “wonderful day” after “eight long years of President Obama” and earned cheers with a crowd-pleasing attack on the Affordable Care Act, which he charged was “eroding the very foundation of freedom as we know it in health care.”
“I think we ought repeal Obamacare today,” Scott said to heavy applause. “The employer mandate is not enough, the individual mandate would not be enough,” he continued, referring to two requirements of the law, the first of which the Obama administration has recently said it will put off enacting for an extra year.
Scott also claimed that the ACA “adds $800 billion of new taxes and new responsibilities on the back of everyday citizens,” and argued that the new law “takes away the very precious relationship between a doctor and a patient.
Scott is currently campaigning to keep his Senate seat for another two years in a 2014 special election that will determine who gets to serve out the remaining term of his predecessor Jim DeMint.