TALLAHASSEE — Sen. Rick Scott of Florida injected himself into the 2020 presidential race, airing an ad in Iowa days ahead of a crucial caucus by attacking the Democratic-led impeachment trial against President Donald Trump and accusing former Vice President Joe Biden of corruption.
The ad buy by the wealthy and politically ambitious Republican U.S. Senator was not just a volley into the current race, but also further signaled his ambitions for 2024 — when he is up for re-election or free to pursue higher political ambitions.
In his 30-second ad, Scott thanks Democrats for “botching this impeachment charade.”
“The real story here is the corruption Joe Biden got away with,” Scott says in his ad.
Trump and his Republican allies accuse the former vice president of using his office to help his son Hunter in his business dealings, including for his work in Ukraine.
As a U.S. senator and former governor of Florida, Scott would have instant name recognition in his crucial battleground home state.
But Florida’s current governor, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a close Trump ally, may also have his eyes on the White House and is widely seen as a likely front-runner, should he decide a run.
Regardless of the outcome of the November presidential election, Republicans will have to line up a candidate for 2024 — to succeed Trump, should he be reelected, or to recapture the White House should a Democrat prevail this fall.
Biden campaign spokesman Bill Russo accused the Florida senator of peddling the same “disproven lies” that has become part of the president’s narrative.
“So why is he airing an ad this week in Iowa? Simple. We are less than a week from the Iowa Caucuses, and President Trump is getting worried that the failed smear campaign that got him impeached isn’t working,” Russo said in an emailed statement.
An AP Fact-check published last month found the president’s accusations against Biden without merit.
Last year, a whistleblower alleged Trump tried to pressure Ukraine’s leader to investigate the Bidens. Those allegations are now at the center of the impeachment trial underway in the U.S. Senate.
The U.S. House impeached Trump last month, saying he “solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States presidential election.”
In his ad, Scott refers to himself as a juror in the U.S. Senate and accuses Democrats of “spending so much time in a coverup for Joe Biden.”
Scott’s office discounted speculation of a potential 2024 bid.
“The message in the ad speaks for itself,” a spokesman said.
“His goal is to get his message at a time and place where he can get people’s attention – and right now it’s Iowa,” he said.
Susan MacManus, a former University of South Florida political scientist, said Scott is clearly trying to grab attention.
“He’s trying to grab the attention of Republicans nationally, not just in Iowa,” she said.
While the 2024 election is still far beyond the horizon for most, MacManus acknowledged, “he has got to start expanding his name recognition nationally.”
At a Wednesday morning news conference, DeSantis, who frequently touts his close relationship with Trump, declined to take questions from reporters.