GILFORD, N.H. — Republican Sen. Rick Scott’s jam-packed one day trip to New Hampshire this weekend naturally sparked speculation about the former two-term Florida governor’s potential national ambitions.
But while pundits see Scott as a possible 2024 GOP presidential contender, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) chairman’s Saturday stops in the state that for a century’s held the first presidential primary were laser focused on the 2022 midterm elections rather than the next White House race.
“I’m focused on the Senate,” Scott said in an interview with Fox News.
Republicans need a net gain of just one seat in next year’s midterms to regain the Senate majority they lost in the 2020 election cycle. They’re playing plenty of defense – the GOP is defending 20 of the 34 seats up for grabs, including 5 seats where Republican senators are retiring, with two of them in the key battlegrounds of North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
But Republicans see strong pickup opportunities to flip a blue Senate seat red in the swing states of Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and New Hampshire, if they can recruit popular Republican Gov. Chris Sununu to challenge Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, his predecessor as governor.
Scott and Sununu briefly chatted ahead of a Belknap County GOP event and fundraiser, where the governor introduced the senator, who gave the keynote address.
“I hope he runs for the Senate and I’m going to do my best to get him there,” Scott said. “I think he’s going to do it.”
Earlier Saturday Scott took part in a “Save Our Paychecks” event in Manchester organized by the conservative group Heritage Action. The senator also held private meetings during the afternoon with Republican leaders in the Granite State, which according to sources were mostly about the 2022 midterms rather than the next GOP presidential nomination race.
A trip by Scott in early April to Iowa – the state whose caucuses kick off the presidential nominating calendar – also sparked speculation. But Iowa could also have a potentially competitive Senate race next year if longtime GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley decides against running for reelection.
For years, potential White House hopefuls have traveled to the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, to help members of their party running in the midterm elections, in hopes of making friends in those key states that could pay dividends in the ensuing presidential nomination race.
Speculation over Scott’s future national ambitions were first sparked early last year, when he ran ads in Iowa targeting then-Democratic presidential candidate Biden in the weeks ahead of the 2020 caucuses.
Asked about a potential White House run, Scott told Fox News on Saturday that “I’ll worry about ’24 in ’23 and ’24” and emphasized that “I have no plans to run for president.”
And spotlighting his busy travel schedule, the senator said “this week I was in five states, I think. Part of my job is to travel and talk to potential donors and candidates.”
The other Scott’s also coming to New Hampshire
There are two Republicans in the Senate named Scott.
And the other one – Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina – is also seen by political pundits as a potential GOP 2024 White House hopeful.
Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate and a rising star in the GOP who was chosen earlier this year to give his party’s response to President Joe Biden’s first joint address to Congress, in April made a political stop in Iowa.
Now, Scott’s coming to New Hampshire, to headline a major state GOP fundraising event, on October 8 in Manchester.
The invitation for Scott to headline the New Hampshire GOP fundraiser is no surprise. State party chair Steve Stepanek told Fox News in May that “I’m going to be watching Sen. Scott because I think great things are before him…We’d love to have him up here.”
While the New Hampshire trip will insert Scott further into the 2024 discussion, he first faces reelection next year back home in South Carolina. Scott hauled in an eye popping $9.6 million in the April-June second quarter of fundraising this year, more than any other GOP senator, in another sign of his rising stature and popularity within his party.
Noem in South Carolina on Monday
Republican Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, an ally of former President Trump who’s also viewed as a potential 2024 White House hopeful if Trump doesn’t run again, heads to South Carolina on Monday.
Noem will speak at the “Faith and Freedom BBQ” in Anderson, South Carolina. The event is described as one of the largest annual gatherings in the state that votes third in the GOP presidential nominating calendar.
Noem made the short trip to neighboring Iowa last month, to speak along with former Vice President Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a summit hosted by the Family Leader, an influential social conservative group. And she spoke remotely earlier in the year to a crowd of influential conservative leaders and activists in New Hampshire.
New 2024 cattle call in Palmetto State
The South Carolina Republican Party is launching a new semi-annual conference in a move to attract more potential GOP presidential contenders.
The inaugural event, titled the “First in the South Republican Action Conference,” is scheduled to be held in Myrtle Beach Oct. 29-31. Organizers say the confab is modeled after the Conservative Political Action Conference, known by its acronym CPAC, which is the largest annual gathering of activists and leaders on the right.
“South Carolina’s first in the south position is not something we take lightly. It’s important to us and important to our voters,” South Carolina GOP chair Drew McKissick said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to hosting this conference, getting folks excited and prepared for the upcoming election cycles, and reminding everyone you can’t make it to the White House without stopping in South Carolina.”
Pence holds donor retreat
The former vice president was in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a week ago, to host a donor retreat for his recently formed nonprofit organization Advancing American Freedom.
The two day gathering – Pence’s first since the end of the Trump administration – also included speakers such as House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and Republican Governors Association chair Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona.
News of the invitation-only retreat was first reported by Politico and confirmed by Fox News.