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MANCHESTER, NH — Pundits view Sen. Rick Scott of Florida as a possible Republican presidential contender in the upcoming race for the White House.
And the latest trip by the former two-term Florida governor and current chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), the Senate GOP’s re-election arm, to New Hampshire is raising eyebrows. The state for a century has held the first presidential primary and is a must stop for potential White House hopefuls.
But Scott told Fox News Digital in an interview Friday ahead of his visit that “I’m planning on running for the Senate” in 2024, when he’s up for re-election. Scott told Fox Digital last August, during a previous trip to New Hampshire, that “I have no plans to run for president.”
The senator’s main campaign mission right now is steering the NRSC as it aims to win back the Senate majority in November’s midterms. While defending a majority of the seats up for grabs this year, Republicans only need a one-seat net gain and see strong pickup opportunities in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire.
Scott will headline the Sullivan County GOP Lincoln Reagan fundraising dinner Friday evening, which will be held at the historic opera house in Newport, New Hampshire. He’ll meet at the gathering with some leading Republican candidates running for their party’s nomination in the state’s September primary, in hopes of facing off in November against former governor and first-term Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan.
Thanks to a rough political climate for Democrats in this year’s midterm elections, and Hassan’s lackluster poll numbers in this crucial general election battleground state, Republicans view the incumbent as vulnerable, and the NRSC and allied groups have already spent millions to run ads attacking her.
“She’s tried to spend money to get her approval ratings up. They haven’t,” Scott said as he took aim at Hassan.
Republicans – including Scott – worked hard last year to recruit GOP Gov. Chris Sununu to challenge Hassan, but the popular governor announced in November that he would seek re-election rather than launch a Senate bid. Scott remains optimistic that, even without an A-list candidate, Hassan is still beatable.
“I doubt anybody thought I was an A-lister when I ran in my primary in 2010,” said Scott, who was a health care executive when he first ran for Florida governor over a decade ago.
And pointing to the ongoing Republican Senate primary in New Hampshire, Scott predicted “whoever comes out of this I think is going to be a good candidate, because it’s going to be a heated primary and it’s going to make people really good.”
“Maggie Hassan is in trouble. Her track record’s bad,” Scott argued. “She’s taken a lot of bad votes.”
But beating Hassan, who has a history of winning difficult elections and who’s compiled a formidable war chest, won’t be easy.
Scott made major headlines earlier this year when he unveiled an “11-point plan to rescue America,” which proposes a five-year review of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and calls for even the poorest Americans to pay income taxes.
The plan gave Democrats instant ammunition – which they’ve repeatedly used – and also caused friction with many Senate Republicans, including longtime Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell. The senator from Kentucky advised against presenting a plan and instead concentrating on making the midterm elections a referendum on the record of President Biden and the Democrats who control both houses of Congress.
A veteran strategist with ties to Senate Republicans told Fox News that “relations between Scott and McConnell and the rest of the Republican conference have been strained since the NRSC chair released his 11-point plan.”
While acknowledging that he and McConnell “had a disagreement on whether we should have a plan or not,” Scott emphasized that he’s known the Senate GOP leader “for a very long time” and that “I have a good a working relationship with him and the rest of the [Republican] senators.”
As he takes incoming fire over his plan, Scott’s gone on the attack against President Biden, arguing in recent days that the president should resign. And he’s spending seven figures to run ads defending his proposals.
“Joe Biden is incompetent, confused and forcing us into a recession,” the senator charges in his latest ad. “I’ve got a plan to rescue America.”
Scott’s trip to New Hampshire comes in the wake of news at the beginning of the month that the Supreme Court’s conservative majority is likely to overturn the landmark nearly half century old Roe v. Wade ruling, which rocked the political world.
Democratic politicians and groups in droves have spotlighted their efforts to defend keeping abortion legal and have taken aim at Republicans, with the aim of energizing their party’s base voters, as well as moderates and independents, over the issue.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Friday went up with a billboard in Manchester – the state’s largest city – with a large headline that claimed “Republicans want to criminalize abortion.” It featured photos of Scott, McConnell and the three best known of the Senate Republican candidates in the Granite State.
Republicans push back against those arguments, charging that Democrats want abortion on demand up until birth.
Scott disagreed that the rise of abortion as a top issue in November’s elections is a setback for the GOP.
He said the issue “helps us.”
And, he argued, “I think most people agree there are reasonable restrictions and there ought to be exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother. I think that’s where the country is. That’s clearly not where Maggie Hassan and the Democrats are.”