Ranking member Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., speaks during the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on March 28, 2023.
CNN  — 

Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina launched a presidential exploratory committee Wednesday morning.

“I will never back down in defense of the conservative values that make America exceptional. And that’s why I’m announcing my exploratory committee for president of the United States,” Scott said in a new video.

Scott – the only Black Republican in the Senate – has been testing the waters for months. Since setting off on a listening tour in February focused on “Faith in America,” he’s made frequent visits to Iowa.

In a speech in the early voting state Wednesday, Scott said that the US needs a “change in leadership” and criticized President Joe Biden’s domestic and foreign agenda.

“Two years was long enough. Four years is hardly tolerable. It is time for America to have a change in leadership,” Scott said as he addressed the Five Seasons Republican Women’s Group Dinner in Cedar Rapids.

The senator emphasized his evangelical faith, his race and his experience growing up as the son of a single mother. He defined his personal ethos as one of “individual responsibility” and his approach to politics guided by the belief that the US is “the land of opportunity and not the land of oppression.”

“There’s this new concept being spread by the far left and it’s like a drug of victimhood and the narcotic of despair. That somehow, some way we as Americans are all victims. I grew up understanding the power of individual responsibility and the importance of taking responsibility for how your life turns out,” Scott said.

He did not take questions from the room, saying he had a plane to catch to New Hampshire, where he is set to appear Thursday.

Scott easily won reelection to the Senate last fall and ended the year with more than $21 million in his campaign account, which he could use for a presidential bid.

Former President Donald Trump, who announced his campaign to win back the White House last fall, has led the GOP primary field, while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – who has yet to announce a bid – has also attracted attention from GOP voters. Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson – a frequent Trump critic – announced that he’s running for the GOP nomination earlier this month. And Scott’s fellow South Carolinian, former Gov. Nikki Haley, announced her bid in February.

Scott declined to endorse Haley – who appointed him to a vacant Senate seat in 2012 – a sign that he could seek the presidency himself. Both South Carolinians had attended the anti-tax group Club for Growth’s donor retreat in Palm Beach earlier this year alongside other potential GOP candidates.

In an interview with Fox News, Scott said Wednesday morning that the “field of play is focusing on President Biden’s failures,” rather than how to beat Trump.

“I believe we give the voters a choice … so they can decide how we move forward. As opposed to trying to have a conversation about how to beat a Republican, I think we’re better off having a conversation about beating Joe Biden,” Scott added.

When asked specifically how he plans to beat Donald Trump, Scott dodged the question, speaking of his personal story, message of faith and continued listening tour in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

At a Christian conservative forum in his home state last month, Scott took aim at Biden’s economic policy and what he called the “disrespect” of law enforcement.

He said that to “restore faith in America, we must be the party of security,” arguing for more funding for police departments and to “close the US southern border, period.”

Scott spent months in Congress trying unsuccessfully to hash out a deal on policing reform with Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and then-Rep. Karen Bass of California. He spoke on the Senate floor following the brutal police beating and death of Tyre Nichols earlier this year, while calling on his colleagues to agree on “simple legislation” regarding police reform.

He’s occasionally spoken out against Trump – for example, after the former president equivocated on racially motivated protesters and subsequent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

“I’m not going to defend the indefensible. I’m not here to do that,” Scott said in an interview with Vice News at the time, going on to add that Trump’s “moral authority” had been “compromised.”

Scott delivered the GOP response to Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress in 2021, which gave him a prominent national platform from which to speak to the country and counter Biden’s message.

Before joining the Senate, Scott served one term in the US House. He also served in the South Carolina state House and on the Charleston County Council.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Jeff Zeleny, Jeff Simon, Veronica Stracqualursi and Kit Maher contributed to this report.