On the trail: A top Senate Republican thinks Sununu’s ‘going to run’

  • Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., joins Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., right, and the GOP leadership talk to reporters about progress on an infrastructure bill and voting rights legislation, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) J. Scott Applewhite

For the Monitor
Published: 8/19/2021 2:17:49 PM

Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida heads to New Hampshire this weekend.

While his multiple stops in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state on Saturday will spark more speculation that the former two-term Florida governor and businessman may have national aspirations on his mind come 2024, his trip is mostly focused on the 2022 midterm elections.

Scott’s the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), the re-election arm of the Senate GOP.

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’s 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.

The NRSC views former two-term governor and first-term Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan as vulnerable if they can recruit popular Republican Gov. Chris Sununu to challenge his predecessor in the corner office. A Hassan-Sununu face-off would be one of the most competitive, expensive and crucial Senate showdowns in next year’s midterms.

Scott’s headlining a Belknap County GOP gala and fundraiser on Saturday at Gunstock Mountain Resort. Sununu’s also expected to attend the function and it’s likely the 2022 election will come as the two leaders chat.

“I think he would be an outstanding senator,” Scott said in an interview on “Good Morning New Hampshire with Jack Heath” on Thursday. “I hope Chris gets in the race. I think he would have a big win.”

Asked if he thinks Sununu will eventually decide to launch a 2022 Senate campaign, Scott answered, “I think he will because he’s a patriot. He’s knows the problems of this country and I think he’s going to run.”

Sununu’s been facing a full-court press of lobbying by Scott, longtime Senate GOP Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and other prominent Republicans. Even former President Donald Trump, who seven months removed from the White House remains very popular with Republicans as he continues to flirt with another presidential run in 2024, has said he’d “like to see” Sununu challenge Hassan.

But Sununu has said numerous times in recent months that he’s in no rush to decide whether to run for the Senate next year, run for re-election for a fourth two-year term as governor, or not run for anything and return to the private sector.

“I’m sure he’ll want to discuss my future plans,” the governor said when asked in a radio interview with Heath on Thursday about his likely encounter this weekend with Scott.

But he added that national Republicans “know where I am in terms of my decision process.”

And looking to his day job steering New Hampshire, he emphasized that “we got a lot of ahead of us. We’ve got a fall surge of COVID coming. I’ve got workforce shortages… I’ve got so many issues that I’m dealing with. I’m focused on the job.”

As for 2024, Scott once again poured cold water on talk that he’s quietly mulling a potential White House bid.

“I haven’t planned on running for president,” he said.

The other Scott is also coming to New Hampshire

There are two Republicans in the U.S. 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.

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, the state whose caucuses kick off the presidential nominating calendar.

Now, Scott’s coming to New Hampshire, to headline the state GOP’s Amos Tuck Dinner, a major fundraising event, on Oct. 8 at the Doubletree Hotel in Manchester. New Hampshire Republicans have long claimed that the Granite State is the birthplace of the GOP, showcasing that the party was founded by Amos Tuck in 1853 at Major Blake’s Hotel in Exeter.

The invitation for Scott to headline the New Hampshire GOP fundraiser is no surprise. State party chair Steve Stepanek told the Monitor 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 re-election 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 and a sign of his rising stature and popularity within his party.

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