Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) still isn’t ruling out a campaign for the U.S. Senate, but says he’s in no rush to make a decision.
“I’ve got 608 days to go in this job. … I don’t feel any pressure to get in,” Scott told reporters at a dinner held Wednesday night on Capitol Hill.
“I think that people are tired of long races,” he added, noting that he didn’t launch his 2010 bid for Florida governor until April of that year.
Republican leaders are hoping that Scott, a multimillionaire former health-care executive, will jump into the race to defeat Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), one of 10 Democratic incumbents seeking reelection next year in states that President Trump won in 2016.
“A lot of people have called me” about a Senate campaign, Scott said. “It’s totally different than 2010 when nobody called me.”
Scott launched his 2010 gubernatorial bid as a political novice and with virtually no support from Florida Republicans. He won the race narrowly with nearly 49 percent of the vote and won reelection in 2014 by just 1 percent.
Scott is a close supporter and in frequent contact with Trump, who he said is tackling the presidency much like Scott tackled the Florida governor’s office — as a political outsider.
“It’s no different than how I walked in with core beliefs,” he said, adding later that the president “is a businessman working it every day.”
Scott met with about two dozen Washington-based political reporters at the Monocle, a Capitol Hill restaurant, to unveil a new PAC, New Republican, that he will chair in hopes of helping to rebrand the Republican Party and win over younger and minority voters.
The group, also led by GOP super consultant Alex Castellanos, is hoping to reach out nationwide by selling the GOP principles of freedom and deregulation in new ways. Castellanos shared glossy marketing materials and videos that will appear in online advertisements as the group ramps up. Scott and Castellanos also shared with reporters details of recent focus groups that suggested younger voters are open to supporting Republican ideals if the party talks more about promoting an “open” society, an “open economy” and the “freedom” to determine where children are educated.
“There’s a better Republican Party out there than we have now,” Castellanos said.
“We’ve got to get into this idea that we can reinvent the party,” he added.
With Republicans and conservatives in total control of Washington — at the White House, in Congress and at the U.S. Supreme Court — Scott made clear, “I’m not trying to start a new party, it’s just about how can we sell ourselves.”
“It’s not about endorsing candidates, it’s about drawing new people to the party,” he added.
Asked about Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James B. Comey, Scott said he recalled meeting the former director after the Orlando nightclub shooting last year and speaking with him after another shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport.
“He was clearly a lightning rod,” Scott said of Comey, adding that based on his interactions with the agency, the director’s dismissal should not affect ongoing investigations.
“They’re hard workers,” he said of FBI agents. “They’re going to keep doing their jobs.”
Scott said he’s also been assured that local and state police agencies in Florida will be reimbursed properly for security costs associated with Trump’s time spent at his vacation home, Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Fla.
“He’s selling the state — I like that,” Scott said. “ … I think we’ll get more tourists.”