Florida GOP Sen. Rick Scott charts course against future policy projects

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Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) has pulled off a few rare feats. He has been accused by the Senate GOP leadership of hurting the party’s chances in the midterm elections while presiding over a fundraising campaign for the party so important that the leadership has no choice but to to celebrate it.

He united Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and President Joe Biden against his agenda.

And the former Florida governor and current chairman of the Republican National Senate Committee has worked to position himself as an outsider who would likely accompany an ultimate insider.

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Scott’s precise plans for the future remain unclear. Some Republicans and analysts think he’s aiming to become the Senate Republican leader after McConnell, while others think he’s aiming even higher, looking to 2024.

What is clear is that Scott has taken controversial steps in an effort to break into an increasingly crowded collection of rising GOP stars.

“I think it is [a] jump the ball in 2024,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, GOP strategist and former senior aide to Sen. Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign (R-UT). Washington Examiner. “It will be a crowded pitch, and no one can claim an advantage at this very early stage.”

Before winning the governorship of Florida in 2010, Scott was a healthcare executive. He is now one of the wealthiest members of the Senate and has spoken often about his background in business and how government should work the same way.

“What Rick Scott brings to the competition is business experience when the economy will likely remain a central issue, as well as the executive leadership experience that comes from being a former governor,” Fehrnstrom added. “It will be more important in the minds of voters than his time as a senator, although his service as chairman of the NRSC in this current cycle will allow him to travel to the first states, meet d important donors and to present themselves to the militant base. .”

But Scott’s economic prescription for those who earn very little is what put him at odds with GOP leaders and Democrats earlier this year when he released an 11-point policy agenda that included, among other things, a proposal to increase the federal tax liability of those at the lower end of the income spectrum.

The “Plan to Save America” ​​has earned Scott public and private rebukes, some from Republicans who complained that Scott had given Democrats something to run against the GOP on in November.

“I hope they do,” Scott said defiantly at a Heritage Foundation event in late March, weeks after writing an op-ed responding to criticism of his not-so-subtly-titled plan. Why I challenge Beltway’s cowardice.” ”

Although fears that Scott’s plan will define the Democratic opposition seem to have faded as the dust has cleared from the headlines, some Republican operatives haven’t forgotten the sting.

“It’s just not good politics,” said a GOP operative involved in Florida politics who declined to be named because of his current clients.

He attributed the situation to Scott’s relative inexperience on the national stage.

“Those are just rookie mistakes,” he said.

Aides who have worked for Scott throughout his more than 10 years in politics have a deep sense of loyalty to him because of the type of thinking that led the Florida Republican to present the plan in the first place, Chris said. Hartline, spokesperson for Scott’s. political operation.

“I think if you follow his career closely, when he spent eight years as Governor of Florida, he was never the favorite of the people of Tallahassee,” Hartline told the Washington Examiner.

“He always did things his way,” Hartline said. “He’s not the kind of person, whatever his job … who changes his way of thinking about things based on the political pressures that are out there.”

Some of the complaints about how Scott has managed to shine his conservative credentials have centered on his role as head of the NRSC.

Critics have accused Scott of using his position to promote his own image and direct funds towards his political operation as he raises heaps of money for incumbents and GOP Senate hopefuls — he’s raised $43 million. dollars in the first quarter of the year.

Grant Reeher, professor of political science at Syracuse University, said Scott’s multitasking in the role is less rare in today’s political landscape.

“I don’t think it’s as unusual to do something like this as it would have been 15, 20 years ago,” Reeher said. “I just think there’s kind of a new normal about political ambition and how individuals assert themselves.”

Scott’s political ambitions could bring him into conflict with a number of other Republicans who could be preparing for presidential elections within the next two years.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) met with top Republican donors in Manhattan on Monday. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has visited key primary states several times this year, and his political action committee grew this week with a digital ad buy in Iowa and North Carolina. South, first two primary states. Senator Tom Cotton (AR) presented an outline of his campaign plan to donors in Washington, DC, earlier this month.

But if Scott’s ambitions are indeed presidential, his toughest opponent – beyond former President Donald Trump, whose intentions for 2024 remain unknown – could be someone close to home.

“The sticking point for Scott is the fact that a popular governor in his state can also seek the nomination, and historically the electorate favors governors over lawmakers,” said Brad Blakeman, a Republican strategist and former senior aide. of President George W. Bush. , say it Washington Examiner. “Having two candidates sitting statewide vying for the nomination will be difficult for both of them.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis (FL) has become a GOP star over the past two years, in large part because of his defiant handling of the pandemic.

But DeSantis also delved deeper into culture war issues than Scott, whose most prominent moves have focused on the economy. This approach by DeSantis brings him closer to Trump in the polls on hypothetical presidential primary matchups.

With issues like racialized school curricula and abortion drawing much of the party’s energy, Scott’s decision to focus more on Social Security reform — he’d like to force Congress to audit and renewing the program every five years – is a throwback to a time before Trump scrambled party priorities.

“Sometimes there’s a crowd of people with a message, and you can stand out with a different message and solidify a faction within the party and get pretty far in presidential elections, even if the majority of voters support someone. else,” David said. Hopkins, professor of political science at Boston College.

“Twenty or thirty percent can get you pretty far in the early states,” he added.

However, Scott’s views may be fixed on a different job.

As Republicans brace for the very real possibility of taking control of the Senate next year, Scott could position himself to try and steer a Senate majority in a more conservative direction than McConnell.

“McConnell isn’t going to be around forever,” said John Feehery, a veteran Republican strategist. “So I think he’s trying to position himself as not necessarily running against McConnell, but also not necessarily being a McConnell person.”

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