Florida’s Democratic Senator Bill Nelson could be looking at the re-election fight of his life, as he will now be challenged by outgoing Gov. Rick Scott. Scott, who has made national headlines with his strong endorsement and friendship with President Donald Trump, announced that he would be making a run for the Senate on Monday. The Associated Press reports that the race promises to be one of the most expensive political contests in the country.
“You’re probably surprised,” Scott said in an interview with Politico, “but I’m going to announce I’m running for senator. You’re shocked, right?”
Rumors of Scott running for Senate have been swirling for months, so the announcement is indeed not a huge surprise. But the fact that Scott will bring his name recognition, popularity, and political resources to bear in a war with Nelson means that Florida could, by the beginning of next year, have two Republican senators representing the state. It could also signal trouble for the Democratic Party as a whole, which has begun not only hoping to re-take the House in November but wrest control of the Senate as well. Scott’s challenge to Nelson could put a monkey wrench in those plans.
While Scott was one of the first Republican governors to endorse Donald Trump in the run-up to the general election in 2016, he demurred when Politico asked if he considered himself a “Donald Trump Republican.”
“I consider myself Rick Scott,” he said. “I don’t consider myself any type of anything. I run on what I believe in. I’ve been very clear. People ask me that a bunch of times – ‘Are you this or are you that?’ – but no. I’m Rick Scott. I grew up poor. I believe in jobs.”
In their analysis of the race, the Cook Political Report said that Democrats who think that Trump’s waning popularity will be enough to stop Scott from throwing Nelson out of office may be overconfident:
Florida Democratic strategists contend that in mid-term elections, U.S. Senate races drive turnout, which is a bit counterintuitive since the gubernatorial contest is also on the ballot. They further argue that there hasn’t been a competitive mid-term U.S. Senate contest since 1974. There have been four polls released thus far this year, and Nelson was ahead in all, but not by much. His advantage ranged from one to six points.
This will be one of the closest and hard-fought contests in the country this cycle. The race is now in the Toss Up column.
That’s bad news for Democrats in a state where Nelson is their last statewide elected official. If Scott takes this Senate seat away from him and a Republican replaces Scott in the governor’s mansion, Florida will be undisputed GOP territory for the first time in a while.
Blue wave, indeed…