Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is widely expected to run for the seat of Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson next year, will chair a super PAC that aims to “re-brand and re-invent the Republican Party” in the image of President Donald Trump rather than conservative icon Ronald Reagan.
“Donald Trump’s election was a complete shock to the system in Washington,” Scott says on the website for New Republican, the entity he will chair. “This is the perfect opportunity to do things differently. Donald Trump needs a Republican Party that supports him with ideas that will make America Great, and ideas that the American people want. New Republican will be an idea generator.”
Republicans frequently invoke Reagan, but Scott says that won’t help the 21st century GOP.
“Let me be clear: We are not going backwards. This is not a nostalgic effort to go back to Ronald Reagan,” says Scott’s statement on the website. “Instead, we are going to do for our party in our time what Ronald Reagan did for his party in his time: Attract young voters, the voters of the future. We are going to bring generational change to the Republican Party.”
Veteran Republican strategist Alex Castellanos is the super PAC’s senior adviser. Melissa Stone, a former Scott chief of staff who managed his 2014 re-election, will be executive director. The PAC’s finance director will be Taylor Teepell, who has worked in the past for Scott and Govs. Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
Scott says the PAC will appeal to younger voters and Hispanics. Exit polls showed Hillary Clinton winning among 18- to 44-year-olds in 2016 while Trump won voters 45 and older.
Scott calls it an “absurd notion” that Republicans can’t win Hispanic votes and says he got nearly half the Hispanic vote in his 2014 re-election. Exit polls used by a consortium of media outlets showed Scott losing the Florida Hispanic vote by a 58-to-38 percent margin to Democrat Charlie Crist. But a post-election poll commissioned by the Republican Party of Florida showed Crist edging Scott among Latinos by only a 49-to-47 percent margin.
Scott has often compared his political rise to Trump’s. Wealthy businessman Scott had never run for office when he stunned the Florida Republican establishment by winning the party’s nomination for governor in 2010. He went on to win the general election in 2010 and re-election in 2014.
When billionaire businessman Trump campaigned against the Republican establishment to win the GOP’s presidential nomination this past year, Scott was one of his earliest cheerleaders.
In January 2016, Scott stopped short of endorsing Trump but praised him in a USA Today column at a time when few elected officials were doing so.
“Political pundits are shocked that Donald Trump is leading in the polls,” Scott said at the time. “The same thing happened in 2010 when I entered the Florida gubernatorial race against the already anointed and establishment-endorsed sitting Republican attorney general…I won the governor’s race in 2010 and many outsiders — some of them business people — continue to shock the political establishment by coming into elected office from careers outside of politics.”
On the New Republican website, Scott characterized himself and Trump as change agents.
“The President is a friend of mine. I’ve known him for about 20 years. I am committed to helping him as he fights against the political machine and attempts to force real change upon a political system and a city that hates change,” Scott said.
Scott in 2016 was national chairman for the Rebuilding America Now super PAC, which raised and spent more than $25 million to assist Trump.