Can Rick Scott Beat Trump? The Unexpected Twist in the Republican Race

Senator Rick Scott, a well-known Florida Republican, might join the contest for the Republican presidential primary. Sources close to Scott say he is weighing his options. If he decides to run, he will join an already crowded field that includes former President Donald Trump, Governor Ron DeSantis, and Mayor Francis X. Suarez of Miami, making him the fourth Republican candidate from Florida.

Mr. Scott, a former governor of Florida, would be challenging both Trump, the current front-runner, and DeSantis, who is currently in second place. The potential entry by Scott could further erode support for DeSantis, who has faced criticism and setbacks recently.

Scott has been discussing the possibility of a presidential campaign for several weeks, evaluating the Republican field. DeSantis’ position has been weakened by recent events, prompting criticism from notable figures such as former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan towards his campaign. Scott, who has expressed interest in running for the White House, sees this as a significant opportunity, especially since it may be his last chance to do so, given his age and the difficulty of challenging a re-elected Republican president in the future.

Earlier in the year, Scott announced that he intended to seek re-election to the Senate in 2024 instead of pursuing a national campaign, making running for president a significant change for him. Chris Hartline, Scott’s senior adviser, stated that while being mentioned as a potential presidential candidate is flattering, Scott is focused on running for re-election to the Senate.

If Scott decides to enter the race, it remains uncertain how aggressively he would challenge Trump, who currently holds a dominant position within the Republican field, despite facing two indictments. Before entering politics, Scott led a for-profit hospital chain and served two terms as the governor of Florida. In 2018, he ran for the Senate, and in 2021 and 2022, he chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee. However, his tenure faced criticism, including financial concerns and questions about spending.

Trump’s intention to maintain his influence within the Republican Party following the Capitol attack in January 2021 was clear. Scott visited Trump at Mar-a-Lago and awarded him the inaugural Champion for Freedom Award from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, aligning himself with the former president. At that time, Trump remained popular among the Republican Party’s base, despite his unfounded claims about the 2020 election. Scott believed maintaining harmony with Trump was in the best interests of Senate nominees.

On the other hand, Scott’s relationship with DeSantis has been more contentious. They have disagreed on abortion restrictions and the feud between DeSantis and Disney over a state law limiting gender and sexuality education in elementary schools. Scott’s tenure in the Senate has also been marked by a strained relationship with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, culminating in a failed attempt to remove McConnell from his leadership position in 2022.