WINDHAM, N.H. – EXCLUSIVE – Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina appears to be turning up the heat when it comes to taking on his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination.
Scott told Fox News Digital in an interview Wednesday that former President Donald Trump is ‘wrong’ on abortion and charged that Trump and two other rivals — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley — have ‘run away from protecting life.’
Trump, the commanding front-runner in the race for the GOP presidential nomination as he makes his third straight White House run, handed his rivals some ammunition over the combustible issue of abortion.
The blockbuster move last year by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to overturn the landmark nearly half-century-old Roe v. Wade ruling, which had allowed for legalized abortions nationwide, moved the divisive issue back to the states.
And it has forced Republicans to play defense in elections across the country, as a party that is nearly entirely ‘pro-life’ has had to deal with an electorate that broadly supports at least some form of abortion access.
Trump declined to endorse a specific number of weeks after which abortion would be banned, with some exceptions, and he refused to say whether he feels the issue should settled at the state or federal levels, during an interview that aired Sunday on NBC News’ ‘Meet the Press.’
‘We’re going to agree to a number of weeks or months or however you want to define it,’ Trump said. ‘And both sides are going to come together and both sides — both sides, and this is a big statement — both sides will come together . . . I think both sides are going to like me.’
Trump also reiterated his criticism of Republicans who take too hard an abortion stance, saying, ‘You’re not going to win on this issue.’
And he called the six-week abortion ban DeSantis signed into law in Florida ‘a terrible thing and a terrible mistake.’
‘I think the former president is wrong on the issue,’ Scott said when asked about Trump’s comments. ‘He was a pro-life president. We need a pro-life president in the future.’
Scott, who was interviewed after headlining the New Hampshire Institute of Politics ‘Politics and Eggs’ speaking series, charged that ‘President Trump and Governor Haley, Governor DeSantis, have all run away from protecting life.’
DeSantis has repeatedly said, ‘I’m pro-life. I’ve been pro-life governor. I’ll be pro-life president,’ but he has not shared specifics on what he would do as president in terms of supporting a federal abortion ban.
Haley has also showcased her ‘pro-life’ credentials but emphasized that without enough support in the Senate, passing a federal abortion ban is ‘not realistic.’
Scott, along with former Vice President Mike Pence and a couple of other Republican presidential candidates, supports a proposed 15-week federal abortion ban.
The senator’s criticisms of Trump, DeSantis, and Haley in his Fox News interview appear to be the latest indicator that he is sharpening his contrasts with his rivals for Republican presidential nomination.
Scott, a rising star in the GOP and the only Black Republican in the Senate, has been spotlighting an uplifting conservative message as he seeks his party’s presidential nomination.
The senator was anything but the loudest voice at last month’s first Republican presidential nomination debate, a Fox News showdown in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And because he mostly avoided the numerous verbal fistfights at the first debate, he rarely enjoyed the glare of the primetime spotlight.
Scott’s campaign says the candidate will draw contrasts and distinctions with the rest of the field at next week’s second debate, a Fox Business hosted showdown at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California.
‘Having an opportunity to talk about where we’re different. I think it’s important for the audience, frankly, at home to understand that there are real differences between the candidates on the stage, and we should have an opportunity to discuss those differences,’ Scott emphasized on Wednesday.
But he seemed to discount poor reviews from political pundits and prognosticators, who gave him a thumbs down.
‘I think you’ll see basically what I did last time. I’ll try to do that again. Frankly, I thought our performance was strong. I want to make sure that we do it again,’ Scott said.
Fox News’ Kirill Clark contributed to this report