(Bloomberg) -- Tim Scott made his second appearance in Iowa as a presidential candidate on Friday, arguing that he can unify the Republican Party by projecting an optimism that will not only lead to victory in 2024 but guide the US into the future. 

Scott, South Carolina’s junior senator, faced a friendly audience at a restaurant in Council Bluffs, where he presented himself as an upbeat alternative to the GOP frontrunners, former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, though he never mentioned either man by name. 

In responding to a question about his low poll numbers, he segued into a rationale as to why his contrasting approach would resonate with the GOP base.

“People are starving for a message of hope and optimism,” he said. “But what they won’t allow, is for a hopeful, optimistic message that lacks conservative principles or a backbone.”

“I got both,” he concluded.

Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, currently sits at 2% in recent polling. He is among several Republicans in the race, including DeSantis and his state’s former governor, Nikki Haley, trying to emerge as the non-Trump candidate whom voters will embrace. 

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“I believe that it is time for a change in America,” he said. “I believe that the best is yet to come — America is still the beacon in the midst of darkness.” 

Scott, 57, who often tells of the challenges he faced growing up poor in North Charleston, assured his audience that “as the months unfold, our numbers will go up.”

His advantage over his competitors lies in his fundraising prowess. He raised $43 million for his reelection to the Senate last year and won by nearly 26 points. Filings show he has $22 million left over for his presidential run. His top 10 campaign money sources were employees of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Blackstone Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

An important benefactor has been Oracle Corp. chair and co-founder Larry Ellison, who plowed $30 million into Scott’s allied super political action committee, the Opportunity Matters Fund, during the 2022 campaign.

Scott’s visit to Iowa, whose caucuses can be crucial in the early weeks of the nomination contest, will continue this weekend with an appearance at the annual Roast and Ride at the State Fairgrounds hosted by one of the state’s senators, Joni Ernst, a fellow Republican.

Other candidates scheduled to attend are DeSantis, Haley, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, Michigan businessman Perry Johnson, technology Ohio entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former California gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder as well as former Vice President Mike Pence, who has not entered the race but is widely believed to be making a run. 

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