Rick Scott, Mitch McConnell AP-22320461327504
Sen. Rick Scott is considering another bid for Senate Republican leadership. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Rick Scott’s Previous Backers Aren’t Sure About Another Leadership Run

Scott is widely assumed to run again after challenging McConnell in 2022. “He’s wanting to make sure he can count votes,” one Republican Senate ally said.

Senator Rick Scott has run for Republican leader before, and there’s every indication he is angling to do it again.

Scott told conservative commentator Charlie Kirk he was “seriously considering” a bid to succeed Mitch McConnell. He met with Donald Trump this week (but told reporters, “We just talked about how we’re both going to win our races”) and had a phone call with the former president after McConnell announced he’d be stepping down as the minority leader. His House allies, like Rep. Matt Gaetz, are already boosting the prospect.

Scott was the only senator to challenge McConnell’s leadership in 2022, picking up 10 votes — a considerable showing in a Senate conference largely loyal to its leadership. But as McConnell steps aside, Scott’s previous supporters in the Senate say they are keeping their options open.

“I’m going to wait and listen to any and all of the candidates who put themselves forward,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, who backed Scott in 2022.

“If people are interested, get out there and make your case, and I’m talking to everybody. I’m not committed to anybody,” Sen. Josh Hawley, who also supported Scott last time, echoed.

On Tuesday, Scott told reporters that he was waiting until a conference-wide meeting — which he is organizing alongside Sen. Ron Johnson and others for the week of March 18 — to hear more from colleagues about where they want the direction of the party to go.

Sen. Mike Braun, who supported his 2022 run, said Scott’s waiting for signals from fellow senators that he can actually win. “He’s wanting to make sure he can count votes, and I think he’d be, I’d be real careful so that you can get there,” Braun told NOTUS. “I think he’d want to be careful that if he really does it full-throated and that he can convert it into not a second place but to win.”

He said those conversations would likely happen one-on-one, “where they’re gonna be honest with you,” not in a formal conference meeting — noting he would estimate at least 15 Republican senators would get behind Scott if he runs. “It’ll be for him to size up the folks, you’re gonna have to, let’s call them swing votes.”

If he announces, Scott would be up against two close McConnell allies already with high-ranking leadership experience: Sen. John Cornyn, who served as Senate Republican whip from 2013 through 2019, and Sen. John Thune, the current Republican Senate whip.

Cornyn, the first Senate Republican to announce his plans to run for the leadership position, told NOTUS that he doesn’t think Scott’s 2022 bid will benefit him.

“I think that was a different time and different circumstances,” Cornyn said. “With Sen. McConnell stepping down, I don’t think the same dynamic is at play.”

Multiple senators expect Trump to have an outsized voice in who will lead the caucus; Scott endorsed Trump’s presidential race well before Cornyn and Thune. However, all three senators have reportedly been in touch with the former president.

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“I don’t want to be premature about it,” fellow Florida Republican Marco Rubio said when asked whether he’d vote for Scott if he joined the race. “I think we have plenty of time to consider who else is running and what he wants to do. Does he want to be in leadership, or does he want to chair a committee?”

Scott has firmer support among Florida House Republicans. “I don’t know if he’s interested, but I’d like to see him run the United States Senate as well as a majority leader,” Rep. Gus Bilirakis said during a press conference Tuesday. “I’d love to see him running the Senate over there and whipping that body into shape,” Rep. Scott Franklin said. Gaetz joked that the entire gathering was an “impromptu press conference for Rick Scott for majority leader.” (The press conference was actually for rolling out Florida endorsements for Scott’s reelection campaign in the state.)

As to whether Scott is an heir apparent because of his prior run, Braun said, “There’s nothing heir apparent about that job because I think he’d be the dark horse, and he’ll have to come from that position, but I think he’s got enough to make the case.”

Claire Heddles is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.