Sen. Rick Scott of Florida will likely grab headlines Thursday as he stops in Iowa, the state that for a half-century has kicked off the presidential nominating calendar.
While the trip will spark further speculation about Scott’s potential GOP presidential nomination ambitions in 2024, for the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) the visit is very much about 2022.
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But Scott’s job steering the Senate GOP’s reelection arm as the party tries to win back the majority in the chamber could pay dividends if he eventually decides to launch a White House bid following next year’s midterm elections.
The Iowa GOP invited Scott to Hawkeye State, where he’ll team up in Cedar Rapids with fellow Republicans Sen. Joni Ernst, Rep. Ashley Hinson and state party Chair Jeff Kaufmann to help raise money for Republicans.
The state’s senior senator, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, is up for reelection next year, but the longtime lawmaker has yet to say whether he’ll run for an eighth six-year term representing Iowa in the nation’s capital.
On the eve of his trip, Scott told the Des Moines Register he’s “very optimistic that Sen. Grassley’s going to run … Actually, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t.”
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The 87-year old Grassley has said he expects to make a decision on whether he’ll run for reelection “sometime in September, October or November” of this year.
“That’s plenty of time to make up my mind,” he told reporters in February.
Scott, a multimillionaire health care executive and venture capitalist who served two terms as Florida governor before winning election to the Senate in 2018, is currently crisscrossing the country, meeting with Republican donors, activists and GOP lawmakers and state leaders as he aims to boost the NRSC’s coffers to help the party retake the Senate.
“It’s my job to recruit good candidates which I’m going to work hard to do. It’s my job to raise the money to make sure they can win the elections,” Scott told Fox News in January, as he was taking over as NRSC chair.
In an NRSC video sent to donors earlier this year, Scott pointed to his fundraising efforts and to his undefeated electoral record as he touted “here are two things I don’t do. I don’t waste money, and I don’t lose elections.”
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Curt Anderson, a longtime Republican strategist and media consultant and veteran of numerous GOP presidential campaigns for over two decades who’s advised Scott, told Fox News that in Scott’s races, “he did put a lot in [of his own money], but he raised a ton as well.”
“He’s a relentless fundraiser,” Anderson emphasized.
And he stressed that he had “never met a more disciplined candidate, politician, governor, senator, or even human. You can like him or not, but the discipline factor is crazy.”
Those attributes come in handy for Scott’s current role as NRSC chair, will also benefit him if Scott ends up launching a 2024 campaign.
Right now the 2024 buzz is mostly over whether former President Trump will follow through with his repeated flirtations and make a third White House run. All the early data indicates that the former president remains extremely popular with Republican voters as his clout over GOP politicians remains immense.
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On a recent fundraising trip to Florida, Scott made a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s resort where he resides, to meet with the former president. The two leaders disagreed over Scott’s pledge to support all GOP incumbents up for reelection – including Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski – who Trump is targeting over her vote in February to convict the former president in his impeachment trial.
But after the meeting, Scott highlighted Trump’s support to help win back control of the Senate, tweeting, “We are all focused on winning back the Senate majority in 2022 and saving our country from the radical policies of today’s Democrat Party.”
Amid the ongoing intraparty feud between Trump and longtime Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, Scott is the only member of the Senate Republican leadership to have met with the former president since he left the White House two months ago.
While he’s not a fan favorite of the MAGA world – compared to fellow Floridian Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had a strong showing a month ago in the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) 2024 GOP presidential nomination straw poll – Scott’s working relationship with the former president could pay off if Trump eventually rules out another White House bid.
Longtime New Hampshire based Republican consultant Jim Merrill said, “I think Rick Scott’s using his NRSC position very smartly right now, to make friends in the early states, to raise money, to help people, and I think it will pay him dividends long term.”
Scott has downplayed any 2024 talk, telling Fox News late last year, “It’s not what I’m focused on.”
But speculation over Scott’s future national ambitions were sparked over a year ago, when he ran ads in Iowa targeting then-Democratic presidential candidate Biden in the weeks ahead of the 2020 caucuses.
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On Thursday, Scott becomes just the second potential 2024 Republican contender – following former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – to make an in-person stop this year in Iowa. Two weeks ago he called into a weekly “right of center” call among influential conservative leaders and activists in New Hampshire, which follows Iowa in the nominating calendar and for a century’s held the first primary along the road to the White House. Scott’s expected to make an in-person trip to New Hampshire this summer to help raise money for the state GOP.
Merrill, a veteran of numerous GOP presidential campaigns, noted, “It’s something that we expect from potential presidential candidates, to go into early states to make friends and one of ways they do that is to help fundraise and support local candidates in the midterm elections.”