Kellyanne Conway Is Tim Scott’s Secret Weapon in Veepstakes

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), a top contender in the competition to be Donald Trump’s running mate, has a powerful ally in that full-contact fracas: Kellyanne Conway.

Immediately after dropping out of the presidential race in November 2023, Scott hit the trail hard for his former opponent, rising to become one of his top television surrogates. The South Carolina senator has defended the former president to critics and campaigned alongside him at rally after rally. Trump even said of Scott that “he’s a much better representative for me than he is a representative for himself,” at a campaign event in February.

Over the last few months, that dedication has elevated Scott to the top of the veepstakes, positioning him today as a favorite pick in the quadrennial political parlor game of who will get the chance to play second fiddle.

But he’s been getting help.

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The Daily Beast has learned that Scott has leaned increasingly on Conway as the VP shortlist has winnowed. It’s not a poor strategy: Conway—who helped guide Trump to victory in 2016 before spending nearly four years as a top White House aide—still has the former president's ear and wields influence with him.

And according to three sources familiar with the situation, Conway is game. These sources told The Daily Beast that Scott has availed himself of the Trump confidant’s relationship with the former president, placing his hopes in Conway’s hands and hoping that her advocacy can carry him across the line.

Scott and Conway haven’t made their friendship a secret. The two were recently spotted having dinner together at Capital Grille in Washington, D.C., and the veteran GOP pollster is slated to speak at a fundraiser next month with proceeds going to a nonprofit backing Scott’s political agenda.

The South Carolina senator is one of two candidates at the top of Conway’s list to be Trump’s running mate; the other is Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), according to a source familiar with Conway’s thinking. On a separate tier are North Dakota Governor and former Presidential candidate Doug Burgum and Sen. Bill Haggerty (R-TN), the source added.

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But Conway’s initiative to get Scott on the Republican ticket goes further than these public appearances. Conway has privately encouraged Trump to partner with Scott, believing the two-term senator is the best of the options in front of the former president, according to multiple Trumpworld sources familiar with the situation.

However, some sources added, influence and judgment are two separate issues.

One source close to Trump told The Daily Beast that while Conway’s lobbying efforts on Scott’s behalf are authentic—as is her sway with Trump—Scott would be a flawed choice, and Conway’s influence may ultimately “convince him to make a mistake.”

“Here’s the thing about Kellyanne: people dismiss her for a variety of reasons; she’s not particularly smart and doesn’t really come up with a lot of good ideas, she’s always chasing money and that’s what guides her decision making,” the source said. “But she does have Trump figured out like no one else. If anyone can convince him to make a mistake—and later assign blame to someone else—it’s Kellyanne.”

A longtime Trump adviser, who said that Conway is indeed rallying hard for Scott, observed that Conway’s influence is strong enough to seem supernatural. “[Kellyanne Conway] must have a Trump voodoo doll, cause she just always seems to stick a pin in the right spot and gets him to do what she wants,” this Trump vet told The Daily Beast.

“President Trump seeks the counsel of many men and women on the VP pick, but he and he alone will decide,” Conway told The Daily Beast in a statement.

The Trump Campaign and a spokesperson for Scott did not respond to requests for comment.

As a respected Republican pollster, Conway seems keen on Scott’s status as the lone Black Republican in the Senate—which, as a running mate, could potentially bridge the campaign to a demographic that some recent surveys have shown to be increasingly Trump-curious. In an op-ed for The New York Times in February, Conway suggested that Trump “choose a person of color as his running mate” and said that any list of potential running mates for Trump would include Scott, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and others.

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In addition, the fundraiser for the nonprofit that supports Scott’s political agenda is headlined by the South Carolina senator himself and includes a number of donors who are skeptical of Trump. A strong show of fundraising, especially from donors who aren’t necessarily fans of Trump, could boost Scott in the eyes of the former president as he pushes to become his next running mate. And having Conway in attendance is no accident, either.

A source close to Scott said that Conway wants Trump to select Scott as his running mate “bad” and that the two have grown particularly close this cycle.

“Tim and Kellyanne have gotten close because, as she puts it, she is de facto head of Trump world—like Trump’s security blanket,” a source close to Scott told The Daily Beast. “People underestimate how much the president relies on her counsel and they doubt her influence at their own peril.”

However, Conway isn’t putting all her cards into one basket. She also is hedging her bets with Rubio.

Conway has been one of the Florida senator’s staunchest advocates and was the person who first put Rubio on Trump’s radar for the veepstakes race.

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She believes that both candidates can help Trump win the election and would be solid choices for a running mate, according to the source familiar with Conway’s thinking.

“She’s navigated Trump for long enough to know you don’t put all your cards on the table, and Rubio is clearly her ace in the hole if Scott gets taken out on the runway,” one Florida consultant told The Daily Beast.

But, in the end, it will be up to Trump to decide on a running mate, and all the positioning and auditioning might not matter if Trump has a completely different person in mind.

“Scarcity is the best strategy with Trump,” said the source familiar. “And in the case of vice president, overtly auditioning gets you noticed but not remembered. So, those who are overtly auditioning might get noticed but not remembered.”

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