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EXCLUSIVE – Sen. Rick Scott predicts that the Democrats – who are days away from controlling the Senate, House and White House – will overreach over the next two years, giving the Republican senator from Florida a "big opportunity" as he works to regain the GOP Senate majority in the 2022 midterm elections.
And Scott – speaking with Fox News hours before his first full day as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), the reelection arm of Senate Republicans – didn’t rule out a role for President Trump in helping Senate Republicans retake the majority in the midterms.
Scott was interviewed as congressional Democrats and even some Republicans pushed for the president’s immediate removal from office – either through resignation, impeachment, or the use of the 25th Amendment, after Trump on Wednesday encouraged thousands of supporters at a rally near the White House to march on the Capitol to protest congressional certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. The incitement helped spark the attack on the Capitol, which left five people, including a Capitol Hill police officer, dead. The storming of the Capitol forced the building into lockdown, and the House and Senate were suspended for six hours until the building was cleared of intruders.
Supporters of President Trump climb the west wall of the the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.<br> (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
"I think what happened last week was bad for our country. It was horrible," Scott emphasized.
Asked if he could picture any role for the soon-to-be former president in helping the GOP effort to retake the Senate majority in 2022, Scott said, "there’s probably going to be places where he can be helpful, and there’s places where he won’t be helpful. It’s sort of up to him. He got 74 million votes. He continues to have support. He had record fundraising online."
But in the wake of the attack on the Capitol, the NRSC chair – acknowledging Trump’s diminished clout over a party he had reshaped and ruled over for four years – noted that "I know there’s going to be some people who disagree with that. My job is to try to navigate all this."
While he lamented the attack on the Capitol, Scott doesn’t see it weighing on the GOP in the 2022 midterms.
"In '22 what people are going to focus on is what’s good for their family," he predicted. "My job to is to explain to them that what the Democrats want to do is not as good for their family as what Republicans want to do. I think that's what's going to matter."
The insurrection at the Capitol came hours after the Democrats swept the twin Senate runoff elections in Georgia, regaining the majority in the chamber for the first time in six years.
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., speaks during a campaign rally for Republican candidates for U.S. Senate Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Sen. David Perdue on Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, in Cumming, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Scott, a former two-term Florida governor who won election to the Senate in 2018, sees a silver lining in the two GOP Senate defeats in Georgia.
"I would have rather won these two Georgia seats, but I think we’re going to see a clear choice," the senator said. "Over the next two years, the Democrats are going to try to do a whole bunch of things that the public doesn’t want. They don’t want packing the Supreme Court. They don’t want higher taxes and more regulation. They don’t want the police defunded. I think the Democrats now have the ability to go do some things. I think it’s going to help define them and I think it’s going to help us have a big win in 2022."
Just as they did in 2020, Senate Republicans will once again face a challenging map in two years.
The Senate will be split 50-50 between the two parties, but the Democrats will hold a razor thin majority, due to the tie-breaking vote of incoming Vice President Kamala Harris. Thirty-four Senate seats will be up for grabs in 2022, with the Republicans defending 20 of those seats.
The difficult map isn’t the only obstacle facing the Republicans. They’re also defending open seats in two crucial battleground states due to retirements. Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Richard Burr of North Carolina are not running for reelection.
There’s also a potential headache in Iowa, where 87-year-old GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley is staying mum so far on whether he’ll run for an eighth six-year term in the Senate. In Wisconsin, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson hasn’t said if he’ll run for a third term. And in Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio is expected to run for a third term, but hasn’t publicly committed to bid for reelection.
"I’ve been talking to all of them. I’m optimistic that they’re all going to run," Scott highlighted. "I’ve got a good working relationship with all of them."
But Scott isn’t just playing defense.
He pointed to possible pickup opportunities in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and New Hampshire.
In Arizona, Republicans will be targeting Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, who is serving the final two years of the late Sen. John McCain’s term after narrowly winning November’s special election. It’s a similar story in Georgia, where Democrat Raphael Warnock will be up for reelection in 2022, after edging appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler last week to serve the final two years of former Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term.
First-term Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is up for reelection in Nevada, which remains a key swing state. Biden narrowly defeated Trump in Nevada in the presidential election after Trump was slightly edged out in the state four years ago by Hillary Clinton. And Republicans also view first-term Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire – who won her 2016 election by a razor thin margin – as potentially vulnerable, especially if popular GOP Gov. Chris Sununu decides to run for the Senate in 2022.
Scott said he’s already looking for recruits.
"I've been reaching out to people all around the country and I’ve had conversations all around the country," he noted. "It's my job to recruit good candidates which I'm going to work hard to do. It's my job to raise the money to make sure they can win the elections."
In a video sent to donors, Scott stressed that "there’s two things I don’t do. I don’t waste money and I don’t lose elections."
But the new NRSC chair could have some immediate headaches, courtesy of Trump.
Trump is vowing to support primary challenges to Republican lawmakers that are up for reelection in 2022 who last week didn’t support the president’s unsuccessful push to reverse the election results. Trump’s targeted Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Senate Republican, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
If Trump makes good on his rhetoric, that list would also include Republican Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Jerry Moran of Kansas, and Rob Portman of Ohio.
Scott downplayed Trump’s primary challenge threat, pointing to his first gubernatorial victory in 2010, when he won the GOP primary even though his rivals landed the big endorsements. "I’m sure that some endorsements matter, but the reality is how do you run your race. I didn’t win my races because I got endorsements," he emphasized.
While Trump won’t be on the ballot in 2022, there’s speculation his daughter Ivanka Trump could possibly make a bid for the Senate in Florida – and daughter-in-law Lara Trump is flirting with a Senate run in her native North Carolina.
"I’ve not talked to either one of them about running for the Senate," Scott said.
While North Carolina’s an open seat, Rubio’s expected to run for reelection in Florida. "I’m clearly going to support our incumbents," Scott spotlighted.
But he noted that "anybody and everybody can run for office" and added that he’s "historically not been involved in primaries."