Florida Gov. Rick Scott plans to spend some time with influential Republican donors this weekend, ahead of a possible Senate campaign launch that could shake up the battle for the majority in the midterm elections.
While Scott has no public events on his official schedule for Saturday, he is slated to speak at the Republican National Committee’s spring donor retreat in Palm Beach, Fla., according to a Scott adviser and an RNC official. He spoke at the same event last year.
After addressing the RNC, Scott plans to head across the peninsula to Naples, where his home is, for a dinner with donors to a super PAC he is chairing called New Republican.
Joanna Burgos, a Scott adviser, said the super PAC gathering is one in a series of regular get-togethers he has had with the organization ever since he joined the group last spring. Donors and spouses are expected to attend, Burgos said.
A Scott associate who has been in contact with the governor predicted Scott could launch a Senate bid soon after the scheduled end of the Florida legislative session on March 9. Separately, a Republican frequently in touch with top GOP senators and officials said they were privately anticipating the same timeline.
The people spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.
Scott has not said publicly whether he will run for the Senate. He was reelected in 2014 and is term-limited, so he cannot run for the governor’s office this year.
Burgos said she expects Scott to face questions about his plans at Saturday’s super PAC gathering, but his answer on the Senate race will be the same one he’s given before.
“He hasn’t decided, and he will decide when he believes it’s time,” she said.
As both parties gear up for the midterms, Scott is seen as one of the biggest remaining variables in the battle for the Senate majority.
President Trump and other Republicans have encouraged him to run against Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).
GOP leaders believe that in addition to making Florida an instantly competitive contest, a Scott candidacy would force national Democratic groups to spend more money in the state than they would otherwise. That would leave the Democrats, the thinking goes, with less cash to shell out in states such as Tennessee and Texas, where they are trying to expand their Senate reach into GOP terrain.
Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate. Democrats are defending 10 seats in states Trump won in 2016, including Florida.
A Quinnipiac University poll released this week showed a close hypothetical race, with Nelson leading Scott, 46 percent to 42 percent.
Scott has spent much of the past couple of weeks dealing with the aftermath of the deadly mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school. He has been holding news conferences on school safety and has broken from the policies of the National Rifle Association by endorsing raising the minimum age for purchasing rifles to 21.
The governor also has been in regular contact with Republican donors in recent months. A multimillionaire, Scott has self-funded past campaigns, but he has made clear that donors outside of Florida would be counted on if he were to get into the Senate race, people familiar with his discussions have said.