Florida waits for Rick Scott to make up his mind about the Senate

It's perhaps the biggest question still lingering above the battleground map for the 2018 midterm elections: Will Flo...

Posted: Jan 4, 2018 10:00 AM
Updated: Jan 4, 2018 10:00 AM

It's perhaps the biggest question still lingering above the battleground map for the 2018 midterm elections: Will Florida Gov. Rick Scott run for the Senate?

For a year, Republicans have expected -- and hoped -- that Scott would run against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, giving them a top-tier challenger in a state President Donald Trump won in 2016.

Republicans expect -- and hope -- that Scott will run against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson

A Scott candidacy would force national Democrats to pour money into the Florida race

More importantly, a Scott run would shape the national landscape by requiring Democrats to pour money into Florida's huge and expensive media markets that could otherwise be spent bolstering the party's nine other incumbents in states that Trump carried.

But the election is now 11 months away, and Scott hasn't made a decision -- or even said when to expect one. Asked by local reporters this week, he responded that he had "390 days" left in his current role.

"He may run for the Senate, and he may not run for the Senate," Scott political adviser Curt Anderson said in an email Wednesday. He said Scott is "relentlessly focused on the job he has now."

"He will make up his mind when he is ready to," Anderson said. "He has a business mindset, not a political mindset. Unlike most politicians, he's not always thinking about another office to run for."

Trump has privately and publicly lobbied Scott for months to run against Nelson.

"I hope this man right here, Rick Scott, runs for the Senate," the President said in September, when the two were together to tour hurricane damage in Fort Myers.

Trump and Scott met Sunday for a New Year's Eve lunch before the President departed Florida -- another opportunity to urge the governor to enter the race.

Could the outreach from Trump, or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, sway Scott?

"He is unrecruitable. There is no one who can influence his decision. Not the President, not the majority leader, not anyone," Anderson said. "Anyone who really knows Gov. Scott knows that he is immune to lobbying attempts to get him to do anything, or not do anything. He's a very different cat."

Scott's term ends after this year, and he can't run for re-election. The two-term governor has also proven he can win close races in the swing state -- and that he'll spend from his personal fortune to do it. Scott pumped a total of $90 million into his two gubernatorial campaigns.

That wealth is what concerns national Democrats the most. Scott's entrance in the race would mean Democratic outside organizations need to pump money into one of the nation's most expensive states, siphoning resources from other states on the already vast 2018 battleground map.

Scott and Trump are personally close. Scott runs the pro-Trump New Republican super PAC, and he spent $2 million on an ad campaign from his Let's Get to Work committee.

The longest Scott could wait is until Florida's May 4 filing deadline.

It was clear in November, at a Republican Governors Association meeting in Austin, Texas, that Scott was keenly aware of the challenging political environment facing Republicans candidates in 2018.

Asked whether Trump would be an asset or a liability on the campaign trail, Scott said, "We'll see what happens in 2018."

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