Can Rick Scott trump Ron DeSantis to win the GOP base?

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) is seen during a press conference after the weekly policy luncheon on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.
Greg Nash

For many conservatives, if you have gotten on the wrong side of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) you must be doing something right. For example, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) irked McConnell in a big way after releasing his “11-Point Plan to Rescue America: What Americans Must Do to Save this Country.”     

Never heard of it? That would not be surprising, since many mainstream media outlets ignored it. But I can assure you that Scott’s ideas are spreading among conservatives like wildfire. Within a week, five of my conservative friends had emailed it to me, and I’m sure that’s happening with others as well.     

Now, while most Americans who are not part of the conservative base may have no idea about the plan or its 11 points, McConnell and the rest of the entrenched establishment Republicans reportedly have read it thoroughly and are infuriated with Scott for releasing it. Why? Because the plan calls on Republicans to do something for a change, should they once again gain the majority in the House and the Senate.

Based upon the history of Republicans talking big to their base and then doing nothing — or worse, selling conservative voters out — Scott anticipated the hostile response from the GOP’s appeasement wing. In the close of his cover letter explaining the plan, he wrote: “It will be ridiculed by the ‘woke’ left, mocked by Washington insiders, and strike fear in the heart of some Republicans. At least I hope so. It’s a start.”

Scott is batting 1.000 in the prognostication business. A quick internet search shows several liberal-leaning sites and woke voices predictably trashing the plan. But more than that, as noted by The Federalist, a go-to site for serious conservatives, the plan also came under attack by Senate Republicans.  

Rather than backing down, Scott instead doubled down in defense of his plan in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal titled: “Why I’m Defying Beltway Cowardice.” In the article, he declares: “There will be many more attacks on me and this plan from careerists in Washington, who personally profit while ruining this country. Bring it on. The American people are fed up, and they will show that at the ballot box this November.”

Now, another truth is that there may be just as Americans who aren’t aware of Scott as those who are unaware of his 11-point plan. But politics can be flipped in an instant. Virtually no one in politics or the media believed Donald Trump would win the Republican nomination in 2016, let alone the presidency that November. But — flip! — he did.

As I have written before in this space, the mistake Trump and many of his supporters make is believing that he won because he is Donald Trump. He did not. Trump won because there were millions of Americans from both political parties who were so sick of the entrenched elites betraying them in Washington that they decided to try the non-politician businessman from New York City. “What have we got to lose at this point?” many probably thought.

Even though he lost to President Biden in 2020, in the four years until that election Trump’s vote total grew from 63 million to 74 million. Why is that important? Well, aside from that vote total being the highest in Republican presidential history, Trump has endorsed much of what Rick Scott advocates for in his 11-point plan.

Now, it’s fair to say that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley have garnered much of the attention regarding who might be a Republican presidential nominee in 2024. But again, politics can flip in an instant.

Back in 2004, then-Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was comfortably gliding toward the Democratic nomination — before his “Dean Scream” fiasco helped to knock him off course. Then-Sen. John Kerry jumped into the vacuum, claimed the nomination, and almost won the presidency a few months later.

Several stories have indicated possible animosity between Trump and DeSantis, though both men have denied it. The other side of the coin is that Scott and Trump reportedly remain close. Trump has stated his disdain for McConnell and the entrenched Republicans who are now going after Scott. Should Trump not choose to run in 2024, he could still prove to be a “kingmaker” by handing over the tens of millions of votes in his back pocket. Flip!

Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration. His latest book is “The 56: Liberty Lessons From Those Who Risked All to Sign the Declaration of Independence.”

Tags 2024 presidential election conservatives Donald Trump Factions in the Republican Party Joe Biden Mitch McConnell Nikki Haley Rick Scott Ron DeSantis

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