- The Washington Times - Monday, April 9, 2018

Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Monday entered the U.S. Senate race in Florida, setting the stage for a high-profile and costly race against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and giving Republicans a boost seven months out from the midterm elections.

Mr. Scott made the announcement live on social media and in a pretaped video, vowing to “shake things up” in Washington in much the same fashion as he has over his two terms in Tallahassee.

“Some say as governor I have never fit in or played by the political rules in Tallahassee ” Mr. Scott said. “Well, that’s true. I never planned to fit in, and I won’t fit in in Washington either.”

He enters the race with polls in February showing him with a positive approval rating, and he has won praise over the years for his handling of major natural disasters in the state.

Mr. Scott gives Republicans their strongest challenger yet against Mr. Nelson, a three-term incumbent.

“It is bad news for Democrats nationally, A, because I think Scott is the best candidate Republicans could get down here and, B, Scott is going to raise lots of money and potentially spend a lot of his own money as well,” said Aubrey Jewett, political science professor at the University of Central Florida.

Mr. Scott, a multimillionaire, spent nearly $100 million on his gubernatorial bids, including more than $60 million of his own money, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Mr. Nelson had $8 million in cash on hand in his latest campaign filing.

Following the announcement, Jennifer Duffy, of the Cook Political Report, said, “the race is now in the Toss Up Column.”

“This will be one of the closest and hard-fought contests in the country this cycle,” Ms. Duffy said.

Mr. Nelson is one of 10 Senate Democrats running for re-election in states that Donald Trump carried in 2016.

Mr. Scott had never served in public office before moving into the governor’s mansion in 2010. He won re-election in 2014. On both occasions, Mr. Scott won by a single percentage point.

He is term-limited from running again.

Mr. Scott was an early supporter of Mr. Trump and signaled Monday that he plans to run a Trump-style campaign.

“It has become fashionable to complain and talk bad about our country,” he said. “I am sick of that. America is the greatest place on Earth, and we should all thank God we are here.”

The president, who urged Mr. Scott to enter the race, will loom large. Democrats have already signaled that they are intent on tying Mr. Scott to Mr. Trump.

“This is going to be a test of the blue wave hypothesis,” Mr. Jewett said. “Trump did win this state, but only by 1 point. So for Gov. Scott, he has to walk somewhat of a tightrope.”

The shoe was on the other foot in Mr. Scott’s gubernatorial races where the Republican ran television ads linking his Democratic rivals to President Obama.

Mindy Myers, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in a memo that victories at the federal, state and local levels in Florida show that “2018 is shaping up to be a different kind of year.”

“Scott has also never run weighed down by an unpopular GOP president and Congress,” Ms. Myers said.

The Senate Majority PAC, a political action committee aligned with Democrats, blasted Mr. Scott in a digital ad, raising questions about his past as head of a hospital chain and accusing him of giving tax breaks to the rich at the expense of the less fortunate.

“Now Rick Scott wants to be senator, but if he didn’t look out for you there, he won’t look out for you here,” the narrator says in an ad.

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