WASHINGTON — Ask almost any Senate Republican and they’ll tell you they love Tim Scott. They just aren’t ready to endorse him for president.

As the popular South Carolina Republican prepares to become the first, and likely only, Republican senator to launch a 2024 presidential bid, Scott is heaped with praise by Senate colleagues as «fantastic,» «top notch» and «interesting,» all while cautiously tiptoeing around the question of whether they will support his candidacy.

“He is extraordinarily bright, knowledgeable and inspiring,” said Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, who worked with Scott on the Committee on Aging. “I think Tim is among the strongest candidates. He would also put Nikki Haley, potentially Glenn Youngkin and Chris Christie in that category. I think we are lucky to have a lot of good people. … I’m not endorsing anyone at this time; I think it’s too soon. But I’m a big Tim Scott fan.»

“I’m a big fan of Tim. He is a good friend of mine,” added Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, runner-up to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential primary. “I will stay out of the race and trust the voters to decide and make the choice. And I look forward to enthusiastically supporting the Republican nominee in 2024.»

Scott endorsed and campaigned with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., during the crowded 2016 presidential primary. Asked if he would return the favor in 2024, Rubio, another «big fan,» demurred.

Well we’ll see. I can endorse in the presidential race. I’m not even close to making that decision,» Rubio said, noting that two of the leading candidates, Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, are from his home state. “I have two people with residence in my state applying. They’ve both done a good job at the jobs they’ve had, so we’ll get to that bridge at some point.»

Even colleagues outside of his party are talking about Scott. At a recent private fundraiser in Los Angeles, a donor asked Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat-turned-independent, to weigh in on the 2024 race.

“The country deserves better than a rematch between Biden and Trump,” Sinema responded, according to two sources who attended the dinner at the home of Jean-Marc Chapus, co-founder of Crescent Capital Group.

Sinema went on to tell guests that Scott was «a great Republican presidential candidate because he is a man of integrity and honor,» the sources said, adding that Scott represents what the GOP hasn’t had in a presidential candidate since before arrival. of Trump. on stage.

However, his comments did not endorse Scott, the sources said. A Sinema spokesman had no comment.

He approached his officer campaign launch, Scott, 57, responded with one word: «Soon.» The senator recently said that he will make an «important announcement» in North Charleston, South Carolina, on May 22, weeks after announcing an exploratory run for president.

Sen. John Boozman, Republican of Arkansas, who was endorsed by Trump in his 2022 re-election bid, is staying out of the primary. He called Scott «an important candidate» and a «person of integrity,» but said right now he’s focused on «how we can get a farm bill passed.» In addition, there is another «capable» person in the race, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Boozman said.

In any other presidential cycle, Scott might have been one of the many senators who jumped into the fray. But more than half a dozen of his hyperambitious Senate Republican colleagues said no to a 2024 bid after Trump, the former president who remains the party’s most powerful figure, announced he would seek a rematch with President Joe Biden next year. anus.

Trump’s dominance in the polls and the endorsement game is one reason so many of Scott’s colleagues either join the Trump campaign or stay on the sidelines.

Trump has won the endorsements of nearly 50 House members and 10 senators, according to a tally by NBC News, compared with three House endorsements and zero Senate endorsements for DeSantis. Haley, the former governor of Scott’s home state of South Carolina, has been endorsed by one lawmaker: Rep. Ralph Norman, RS.C.

Unlike the Democratic Party, congressional support for the Republicans does not count in the race for delegates. But in a crowded field, endorsements from lawmakers can signal a candidate’s momentum and popularity in certain parts of the country.

“Tim is a good guy,” said first-term Sen. Markwayne Mullin, R-Oklahoma, wishing him “the best of luck” in his candidacy. “We break bread together and have dined a lot together. He gave me some of the best advice when I got here: ‘You’ll know you’re a senator when you move your mouth and have nothing else to say.'»

But Mullin, who received Trump at a NCAA wrestling match In Tulsa this year, he argued that Trump is the best candidate to lead the party: “Trump is a friend of mine…and when we get rid of these disastrous four years of Biden, we are going to need someone who is a proven leader. ”

Still, for those ready to turn the page on Trump, Scott could ultimately prove a solid alternative. In 2014, the former House member made history as the first black Republican elected to the Senate from the South since Reconstruction. And his colleagues described Scott as an exceptional communicator, hard worker and detail-oriented legislator who has a personal narrative from the start and a positive vision for the future that will play well on the campaign trail.

“He’s someone I’d be happy with if he were to become president of the United States,” Sen. Mitt Romney, a two-time presidential hopeful and 2012 Republican nominee, said in a brief interview. “There are a number of people I feel that way about. ; he certainly he is one of them ”.

A handful of people still on friendly terms with Trump also felt comfortable saying they’d like to see a Scott president, though they stopped short of formal endorsement.

“He’s fantastic and I think he would make a great president,” said Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the No. 3 leading Republican in the Senate. «I think he would be fantastic.»

“He’s top-notch, that’s for sure. He is smart, hardworking. He is eloquent. He is happy. He’s simply the best. He’s always kind of a source of healing when he’s around,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer, RN.D., a Trump ally who has yet to endorse the presidential run.

“I would absolutely consider supporting it. He has everything you would want in a leader.»

But when asked if Scott had what it takes to beat Trump, Cramer replied: «I don’t know. It’s hard to say and it’s hard to see.»