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Beltway Confidential

Bloomberg View editorial writer Francis Wilkinson: Tim Scott lacks a primary challenger because he's black

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Beltway Confidential,Republican Party,South Carolina,Tim Scott,Justin Green,Race and Diversity,Racism

Bloomberg View editorial board writer Francis Wilkinson is asking the big question: Is South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott the beneficiary of favorable treatment from Republicans because he's a black man?

Scott, who was appointed to the Senate after Jim DeMint resigned to become president of the Heritage Foundation, does not face a primary challenger for re-election.

This apparently stunned Wilkinson, who proceeded to call a friend in South Carolina Republican circles.

What does he claim to have learned?

That Scott is both wildly conservative -- he scored 90 out of 100 on the Heritage Action scorecard (note: Wilkinson incorrectly cited 94 percent, a baffling error considering the thrust of his argument) -- and there exists among Tea Partiers and conservatives "widespread recognition" that "a high-profile black conservative is a thing most rare and precious" in the state that sparked the Civil War and still flies the Confederate flag on state capitol grounds.

Now, the usual caveat about journalism: Using a single anonymous source to describe an entire state's treatment of its first African-American senator is so problematic as to be laughable.

But let's give Wilkinson a more fair treatment than he provided his opponents.

Let's say Scott was a moderate Republican with a 63-out-of-100 rating from Heritage Action, like Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. Or 53-out-of-100 from Heritage Action, like fellow South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. Or 78-out-of-100, like Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Or, just to play fair, let's compare Scott to the average Republican senator. The GOP average is 68 out of 100 on Heritage Action's scorecard.

If Tim Scott scored 68 out of 100 and did not face a primary challenger, Wilkinson's argument would perhaps be credible. If Scott was in House or Senate leadership and still faced no challenger, Wilkinson's column would be troubling for conservatives. If Scott made a habit of infuriating conservatives by appearing on Sunday political shows and making headlines blasting the Tea Party movement and was still unchallenged, we'd have an issue.

But Tim Scott is the fifth-most conservative member of the United States Senate.

Instead of plucking Occam's razor from the shelf and realizing that Scott is popular because he's a hardliner in an ideologically polarized era, Francis Wilkinson cited a single anonymous source to say that the story isn't so simple and Tim Scott is yet another beneficiary of affirmative action from the Republican Party.

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