Sen. Rick Scott of Florida is running for re-election, he said in an announcement first shared with NBC News.
Scott released his campaign staff hires and made it clear he’s not planning to run for president, as some have speculated.
“I’m running for the U.S. Senate,” he said.
Scott also promised to push a controversial conservative plan that brought bipartisan condemnation last year. Scott released his plan, nicknamed “Rescue America,” when he led the National Republican Senatorial Committee and packed it with red-meat conservative proposals on welfare, immigration, gender, crime and education.
But his proposal to have more poor people pay a little more in federal income tax was instantly panned by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, as well as Democrats who began criticizing Scott as a tax-raiser.
Scott told NBC News he’s not backing away from it.
“I’m going to continue to push it,” Scott said, noting it’s still on his website. “I tell people these are my ideas. Let’s start fighting over ideas. If Democrats have a better way of getting people back to work, it doesn’t seem to be working. Labor participation rates are down. We’re not creating full-time jobs. Look at the job market. All we’re doing for last few months is adding part-time jobs. That’s not a great economy. Inflation: 40-year high. If we did what I put in my plan, then it would be better for Americans, all Americans.”
Democrats, anticipating Republicans across the country will echo similar arguments about the economy as President Joe Biden seeks re-election next year, as well, point out that annual inflation has fallen for six months in a row, that the costs of most goods are falling — including gas prices since they peaked in June — and that wages are higher now than in the summer.
“We’ve seen this movie so many times,” White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement, comparing Scott to House Republicans who want to cut taxes that benefit the wealthy while cutting social services.
“Rick Scott is doing the very same thing,” he added. “Tripling down on his ultra MAGA agenda to raise taxes on middle class families and schedule Medicare and Social Security to expire is fundamentally at odds with the wishes of the American people, and President Biden is firmly against it. Instead of selling out working families to rich special interests, the President is fighting to build an economy that works from the bottom up and the middle out.”
Scott acknowledged he wants to cut back on social service spending and said he believes too many “able-bodied” people aren’t working. Getting more of them to work, he argues, would grow the workforce and expand the number of taxpayers.
“I said everybody should have skin in the game. I wrote it. And my purpose is to do exactly what my mom told me to do: get to work,” he said.
As for being framed as a tax-raiser, Scott said: “It’s the opposite of what I do. I’ve cut taxes and fees, and I’ve never voted for a tax or fee increase.”
Scott’s preliminary re-election team consists of longtime advisers and operatives who helped him win his first election in 2010 as governor, his re-election four years later and his first Senate seat in 2018, as well as in his NRSC efforts last cycle.
They include: Jackie Schutz Zeckman (who last served as the NRSC’s executive director and who will run Scott’s political operation), Chris Hartline (who handled communications at the NRSC and will become a senior communications consultant for the campaign), Curt Anderson (a founding partner of the consultancy OnMessage and Scott’s top adviser), Priscilla Ivasco (the NRSC’s media affairs director, who will become the campaign’s communications director), national press secretary Jonathan Turcotte (a former NRSC rapid response director), finance director Lisa Goodspeed (who held similar titles in his previous campaigns) and Hispanic engagement senior adviser Ana Carbonell, who served in a similar capacity in his previous campaigns.
Scott’s term as leader of the NRSC was rocky, and it put him at odds with McConnell, R-Ky., whose supporters partly tried to blame Scott when the GOP lost a net of one seat in the Senate last year instead of gaining control of the chamber, as many had expected.
Asked about the status of his relationship with McConnell and whether the two had made up, Scott said: “I’ve known him since I lived in Louisville. So he’s fine.”
Scott has also had a frosty relationship with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, which stemmed from a dispute over his successor’s transition in 2018.
“I don’t really know him very well. I’m glad he’s keeping taxes low and jobs continue to grow and stuff like that,” Scott said.
But DeSantis has also heralded the same drops in unemployment and the same types of job creation that the White House has boasted about, prompting Scott’s criticisms.
Now that DeSantis appears to be positioning himself for a presidential bid, the governor could face former President Donald Trump, a longtime Scott ally who now lives in Florida, as well, in a Republican primary.
But Scott said he has always refused to weigh in on major primaries, and he said that wouldn’t change now. (As Florida governor, Scott endorsed Trump in 2016, but that was only after Trump had the primary in the state.)
“I’m focused on my race. I’m not focused on somebody else’s race,” he said. “My goal is to have a good working relationship with all Republicans. But I don’t plan on getting involved in an endorsement in a presidential primary. Think about it: Every Republican who is considering running in a presidential primary I know. So I’m going to focus on my race.”
In his three elections, Scott never won by more than a percentage point, and he has spent unprecedented sums from his personal fortune to win — $149.5 million combined in his past three races, in which opponents of both parties have attacked his past leadership of the troubled Columbia/HCA hospital chain and its record Medicare fraud fine.
Scott indicated he’s ready to do whatever it takes to win this time, but he says the political dynamics of the state are much more favorable to Republicans.
“If you look at when I ran in 2010, there are 4.6 million Democrats [registered to vote] in the state and 4 million Republicans,” he said. “Now what’s happened is we have 4.9 million Democrats and 5.2 million Republicans. So every time I’ve won, I’ve won when there were more Democrats than Republicans in the state. So hopefully, people think I’m doing my job. But I’m not gonna take anything for granted.”