As we told you earlier today, South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint is quitting the Senate a few years earlier than planned to take a job at a powerful (and, we're guessing, well-paying) conservative D.C. think thank. His decision to step down now means that GOP Gov. Nikki Haley gets to name a temporary successor, who would then be well positioned to run in a special election in 2014 if he or she wants to stick around. So who's the early leader in the clubhouse to be given the free ticket to the Senate? GOP Rep. Tim Scott.
Don't believe us? Fine, here's the rest of the Internet telling you the same thing.
The Atlantic makes the case for Scott:
For a small state, South Carolina has an impressive bench of possibilities, but there's one name that immediately sticks out: Rep. Tim Scott. Scott, who represents Charleston, was elected to the House as part of the Republican wave of 2010. Strongly aligned with the Tea Party, Scott would not only be a strong conservative successor to DeMint, he would be the first black Republican senator from the South since Reconstruction, when two were elected from Mississippi, and the first black Republican senator since the 1970s, when Edward Brooke held one of the Massachusetts seats.
The Washington Post sees largely the same thing:
[O]ne candidate quickly stands out as making a whole lot of sense to join the upper chamber: Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). “The only way that she doesn’t pick Tim Scott is if she picks herself,” said South Carolina GOP strategist Wesley Donehue. “It makes all the sense in the world.”
As does Politico:
Rep. Tim Scott is seen as the leading contender for the appointment among GOP consultants, largely because of the historical significance. A conservative African-American from Charleston, Scott would provide diversity and geographic balance. "Scott is head and shoulders above any other possible appointee," said a conservative Republican lobbyist.
The Hill says he's also DeMint's first pick:
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has made it known in South Carolina that he wants Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) to replace him in the Senate, two state Republican sources tell The Hill. ... Scott told The Hill earlier this week that he would not challenge Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in a 2014 primary. The conversation occurred before DeMint had made public his decision to leave the Senate and create an open-seat race in the state.
And one more for good measure (via CBS News):
A South Carolina Republican source, who asked that his or her named not be used, told CBS News that South Carolina Rep. "Tim Scott is the undisputed favorite - and probably preferred by Jim DeMint."
"It would be historic for an Indian American governor from the Deep South to appoint an African American to the US Senate," said the source. "I think it's highly unlikely she would appoint a placeholder. There are too many critical votes coming in the next 24 months. Scott and DeMint are lock step on the issues."
Of course, nothing's a done deal yet. There's always a chance that Haley could opt against tapping Scott for the post but from the sound of things that seems unlikely, especially given how atwitter the Beltway is right now about the idea of a black Republican senator from the South. The near instantaneous consensus that he'll get the job now becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. While his promotion to the Senate would likely help the GOP with its current diversity problem, the inverse of that is also true: It won't look so great if Scott is passed over now that he's been touted so loudly as the man to replace DeMint.
If the South Carolina governor does go another way, some of the other names floating around out there are: Reps. Jeff Duncan and Mick Mulvaney, and state Sen. Tom Davis. If she opts for a temporary placeholder (someone who won't seek a full six-year term in two years), the best bets appear to be former Attorney General Henry McMaster and former South Carolina House Speaker David Wilkins.