Although Scott has been unbeatable since he first ran for state office in 2010, the tone and direction of the Republican Party under Trump has shifted to a place outside of his comfort zone. Trump’s Republican Party is largely oblivious to Scott, a former healthcare executive who embraces focus groups and adheres to the talking points of the day, not the spontaneous cheek that Trump embraces. That, coupled with his known lack of charisma, could spell early trouble for Scott’s ambitions in the White House.
Scott, a two-term former Florida governor and now a junior senator from the state, was one of the first politicians of the established type to endorse Trump’s bid for president. Scott, a tea party favorite, chaired a pro-Trump super PAC in 2016 that raised $ 20 million and most recently criticized Trump’s second impeachment and challenged certification of the 2020 election.
But in recent public statements, Scott has created distance between himself and Trump. He claimed that the Republican civil war is “off” even as Trump openly plots revenge and possible primary challenges against Republican critics. As the new head of the Republican Party’s campaign arm in the Senate, he said he would favor headlines over challengers, largely closing the door on the organization that supports Trump-backed insurgents.
“In the eyes of Trump voters, Scott is risking too much,” said State Rep. Anthony Sabatini, an Orlando-area Republican who sponsored a bill that would change the name of a stretch of the Florida highway after Trump. . “He sure supports Trump on many votes and issues, but he is not charging the hill for nothing or driving the conversation the way others do.”
A couple of recent polls also show Scott is having a hard time breaking through. Last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference opinion poll had Scott at less than half a percent, while Ron DeSantis, Scott’s longtime rival, got 43 percent if the former president doesn’t show up at 2024. In another poll conducted last month by Florida Republican pollster Ryan Tyson, 69 percent of Republicans viewed Scott’s performance as strong or somewhat favorable, compared with 84 percent for DeSantis and 83 percent. of Trump.
Scott was not even included in the poll looking at a potential 2024 field that does not include Trump conducted last month by Republican pollster Patrick Ruffini.
However, some veterans of Florida politics caution against paying too much attention to the figures from early 2024. Scott has been a giant for the past decade in Florida politics, and they have seen him use his vast wealth to defeating his favorite rivals in the past and amassing an impressive 3-0 record in state political races, a number that jumps to 4-0 if you count Scott defeating establishment-favored Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum, in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primaries.
For them, the message is clear: doubt Rick Scott at your own risk.
“I don’t know if CPAC is the most revealing audience in the world on who’s the next nominee, or whatever,” said Brian Ballard, a Florida-based lobbyist who was close to Scott when he was governor and is a well-known influencer from Trump. “Rick Scott has a political graveyard littered with opponents who didn’t take him seriously.”
“I think it will resonate with Trump voters when the time comes,” added Ballard. “As will Marco Rubio. As will Ted Cruz. Everyone has their place. “
Chris Hartline, a spokesman for the Senate Republican National Committee who previously worked for Scott in his United States Senate office, said in a text message: “Rick Scott is focused on one thing: saving the country from socialism by taking back the Senate. from United States. Any suggestion or story beyond that is silly. “
Susie Wiles, who has led both Trump campaigns in Florida and has advised Scott in his past careers, says Scott will be able to break through with Trump’s base when he refocuses on his own politics.
“Rick Scott is focused on being a senator right now, and off winning races for other Republican senators,” he said. “When you decide to focus on something else, you will be successful. Always has been “.
Brian Burgess, Scott’s communications director after he first became governor in 2010, said his former boss never relied on “lofty” political rhetoric to energize his supporters.
“His strength is in the methodical execution of a strategic plan and then live or die on the results,” Burgess said. “That’s what it is, and if you decide to run for president in a few years, it will be because there are a large number of Americans starving for that kind of leadership, not because you can ‘outdo Trump’ other potential candidates. “
While Scott has struggled to gain ground among Trump’s most loyal voters compared to other rising Republican stars, he has also shaken corners of the party. When he took over as head of the NRSC, he fired a handful of high-level employees and replaced them with his own longtime assistants, according to two sources familiar with the matter. Scott replaced staff without informing Senate leaders but after heated elections in Georgia that saw Democrats take two Senate seats and change control of the House.
“He’s trying to please two masters,” Fabrizio said. “In this day and age, I just don’t know how to do that.”
A Florida Republican consultant said Scott’s failure to attract the attention of Trump voters and squabbles with the more established Republican Party could leave him somewhat politically aimless in a 2022 election cycle in which he will be impeached. to lead the Republican Senate campaigns.
“The problem is that it no longer has a lane. Trying to be a Trump person is not working, ”the person added. “Trying to be a leadership person in the Senate is not working. So what does he do? I think he is just trying to win races, which is one of the things he has done well ”.