Florida’s two Republican senators are staying out of the emerging 2024 GOP presidential primary for now, even as a growing number of their state’s Republican House delegation are lining up behind former President Donald Trump.
The silence from Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) underscores the tightrope two of Florida’s most prominent Republicans will have to walk as the rivalry between Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to heat up.
Republican strategists and operatives say there’s little benefit for either man to get involved in the nascent presidential primary just yet. Rubio already has preexisting alliances with other 2024 contenders, like Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), while Rick Scott is facing reelection next year, meaning he’ll likely be on the ballot with the eventual nominee, regardless of who it is.
“I think both of them would like to take their time,” Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist, said. “And there’s no pressure to do anything right now. They can feel things out on their own.”
It’s still exceedingly early in the 2024 nomination process. DeSantis is still weeks away, at least, from formally launching a White House bid, the first Republican presidential debate isn’t until August, and the Iowa caucuses are more than nine months out.
Rubio, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2016, said he’s taking his time when it comes to his party’s 2024 presidential contest, noting he’ll begin taking a closer look at the field sometime this summer.
“I just set for myself a timeline, but I’ll start thinking about the presidential race in the summer,” Rubio said when asked whether he had made up his mind on the 2024 presidential race. “Everybody has their own timeline. That’s just mine.”
Rubio has publicly praised both DeSantis and Trump. But despite early polls suggesting the 2024 GOP nominating contest is shaping up to be a binary choice between the two Floridians, Rubio has also pointed to other hopefuls, including Tim Scott, a friend of Rubio who endorsed the Florida senator’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Tim Scott has already launched an exploratory committee and is expected to formally launch a campaign on May 22.
“We’ve got a bunch of other people. My colleague Tim Scott might get in the race and others like that,” Rubio said during an interview on the “Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show.” “So I think that’s good. We got a successful president, a successful governor, a bunch of people that I think are very appealing candidates.”
Rick Scott, meanwhile, has indicated he’ll stay out of the 2024 race for the foreseeable future, saying repeatedly that he’s focused only on his reelection bid.
“I don’t get involved in primaries. I’ve got my own race. I’m up for reelection next November,” Scott said during an appearance on the “Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show.” late last month. “So I’m going to focus on my job right now representing the 22 million people who live in the state, and then next November winning reelection.”
Asked by The Hill last week whether he had made up his mind on who he wants to see win the GOP presidential nod next year, Scott was blunt: “No.”
Republicans said there’s little chance Scott comes down on the side of DeSantis in the presidential race, given their distant — and often icy — relationship. On the other hand, Scott has been a close ally of Trump, and the former president endorsed his bid last year to replace Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as Senate minority leader.
Still, the most likely scenario for now is that Scott waits until the end of the nominating process to make an endorsement, multiple Republicans said, describing Scott as deliberative and detail oriented. While Scott endorsed Trump’s 2016 bid for the GOP nomination, that was only after the now-former president won Florida’s primary.
Yet Scott and Rubio’s collective silence on the 2024 race has set them apart from many of their fellow Florida Republicans, who have eagerly weighed in on the contest in recent weeks. Trump’s team has already rolled out endorsements from more than half of Florida’s 20-member GOP House delegation, including a handful of members that were seen as DeSantis allies.
So far, one member of Florida’s congressional delegation, first-term Rep. and former Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee (R-Fla.), has come out in support of DeSantis’s presidential aspirations. Two other members, Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Chip Roy (R-Texas), are also backing DeSantis.
And while Republican senators have so far been a bit more reluctant to involve themselves in the primary, nearly a dozen have already thrown their support behind Trump. One Republican familiar with the Trump campaign’s endorsement efforts said there are likely more in the pipeline.
Of course, endorsements don’t necessarily translate to votes; Trump racked up few endorsements in 2016 and went on to win the GOP primary anyway. Still, one Republican consultant who’s worked in Florida politics said that winning the support of elected officials and party luminaries can help campaigns drive a narrative — and that has worked to Trump’s advantage so far.
“The House members bought Scott and Rubio some time because essentially the Trump folks wanted to make the point that even in DeSantis’s own backyard, people are defecting from him,” the consultant said. “Frankly now, if you don’t see pressure from the Trump camp, you can sit there and take your time.”
Caroline Vakil contributed.