Rick Scott throws hat in ring to replace McConnell as Senate Republican leader

Florida Senator Rick Scott pictured in 2022.  (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Florida Senator Rick Scott pictured in 2022. (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Florida Senator Rick Scott is once again asking Republican colleagues to make him their party’s leader in the upper chamber, giving GOP senators a chance to vote for a more right-wing candidate than his rivals for the post.

Mr Scott, a former Florida governor who chaired the Senate Republicans’ campaign committee during the 2022 election cycle, announced his candidacy in a letter to fellow senators on Wednesday.

“This is not a time to make small adjustments, I believe we need a dramatic sea change to save our country and that’s why I’m running to be Republican leader,” Mr Scott wrote.

He also pledged to lead colleagues in developing “a positive, aspirational agenda that outlines our legislative goals and what Senate Republicans stand for”.

The Floridian positioned himself as a bolder, more conservative choice than Senate GOP Whip John Thune of South Dakota and former whip John Cornyn of Texas, both of whom have announced bids to succeed Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the longest-serving leader of either party in the Senate’s nearly 250-year history.

In February, Mr McConnell announced his intention to stand down from leadership next year while serving out the last two years of his six-year term, which ends in 2026. The Bluegrass State senator had been under scrutiny after several public episodes in which he appeared to freeze for several seconds, leading to concerns over his health.

Mr Scott previously ran for leadership against Mr McConnell but lost in what was understood to be a lopsided vote, with only a small portion of the chamber’s 48 Republicans siding with him against the veteran Kentuckian.

Mr McConnell has increasingly become the target of right-wing ire over his refusal to back the pugilistic approach of the Trump-aligned wing of the GOP. He also broke with Mr Trump after the January 6 attack on the Capitol and said the ex-president bore responsibility for the attack and suggested that he could be held accountable through the criminal justice system.

By contrast, the Florida senator has closely aligned himself with the twice-impeached, quadruply-indicted ex-president, even going so far as to travel to New York City to attend Mr Trump’s criminal trial on charges that he allegedly falsified business records to cover up making hush money payments to an adult film star so she would not go public about an affair they had before the 2016 election.