Dark cloud has followed dark cloud for Republicans concerned with the 2018 midterms, and the trend-line can only be called “troubling.” Due to retirements, Trump’s unpopularity, and swings in the electorate, the party’s majorities in both houses of Congress are in jeopardy, and Donald Trump is at risk of being isolated in the White House with his defunct “America First” agenda.
Within that broader context, however, the GOP got some good news on Monday, when Florida governor Rick Scott announced that he would be running against the incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson in the upcoming U.S. Senate race. From the Times:
“This is going to be a lot of fun,” Mr. Scott, wearing his usual Navy baseball cap, said in an announcement on Facebook Live from Orlando before embarking on a statewide tour, the type that has become his signature over eight years as governor. “We’re going to make sure that Washington works for us.”
Before he gets a chance to set Washington right, he’s going to spend an awful lot of money, and so will his opponent. Between them, early estimates indicate the campaign could cost as much as $150 million. Incidentally, this also creates a vacancy in the governor’s mansion that will also likely produce a hotly contested race in the 2018 cycle. Throw in a handful of competitive House races, and the eyes of the country will be on Florida this November.
Nelson is 75 years old, and has served as one of Florida’s two senators since 2001. It is usually quite difficult to unseat an incumbent—especially one who has been around for longer than one term—but Scott’s name recognition (even greater than Nelson’s per a recent poll) changes the dynamic considerably.
Scott himself has been governor for eight years, prior to which he made his millions as a health care executive. He spent $73 million during his first race, and in both 2010 and 2014, he won by a single point over his opponents. Quinnipiac ran a hypothetical poll pitting the two against each other in February, and in that case, Nelson held a four-point edge. Now the hypothetical has become actual, and in a razor-tight nationwide race, the prospect of flipping a blue seat red has given Republicans a sliver of optimism for the first time in quite a while.