Scott, who has been stuck in the low-single digits in polling, had announced that his campaign was going all-in on Iowa in a last-ditch effort to boost his chances in the Republican presidential contest. It’s unclear just how many of his staff members were drafted to move to Iowa after his campaign manager announced last month that staff would be relocating to the first-caucus state.
On a call with campaign staff immediately after his television interview, Scott acknowledged that the announcement “may have caught you by surprise,” and that he “tried to be as strategic as possible dealing with this.”
Less than half an hour before he made the announcement, Scott’s campaign sent out a fundraising email with the subject line “One last chance.”
Scott qualified much later than his opponents for the Republican National Committee’s third debate — struggling to reach the required 70,000 donor threshold. But his allies considered it to be his best performance on stage yet.
Nevertheless, he remained at risk of failing to qualify for the next debate, which had even higher donor and polling criteria. The polling threshold for that debate, on Dec. 6 in Alabama, is 6 percent, a mark Scott has not been hitting. And the campaign had dwindling resources to try and improve his numbers, having spent significantly more than it had brought in. The campaign had $12.4 million in expenditures during the third fundraising quarter, while raising $4.6 million.
Scott’s Sunday night announcement came after he canceled a scheduled swing through Iowa this weekend, a change the campaign on Friday attributed to him having the flu. Scott started the interview by saying he was “looking forward to getting back on the campaign trail” after he recovers from the flu before adding that he would no longer be a candidate.
“Pretty shocking,” remarked one Scott ally after his announcement.
“Had no idea,” said a campaign staff member, moments after Scott said on television he was ending his presidential bid.
Scott’s withdrawal will come as a blow to establishment Republicans who believed his prolific fundraising and softer rhetoric might position him as a viable alternative to former President Donald Trump. His departure from the race came not long after another more traditionalist Republican, former Vice President Mike Pence, also dropped out.
Scott, unlike Pence, entered the race with high expectations. But he never caught a spark. Last month, while describing Scott as a “spokesman” for the “Reagan, hopeful, optimistic message,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said of his struggles, “I’m disappointed, because he’s such a terrific guy and has got a great message.”
Scott’s advisers bristled since the start of his campaign at any suggestion that he might be running for vice president, with one adviser telling POLITICO earlier this year that the suggestion was “insulting.”
Asked about the possibility now, Scott said on Fox, “I’ll be honest with you, I ran for president to be president. I believe I could have taken this country to new heights with great unity on conservative principles.”
He said, “That’s what the Lord put in my heart. I think I was called to run. I was not called to win. But I certainly was called to run. And I’ll say this, that being vice president has never been on my to-do list for this campaign, and it’s certainly not there now.”
When asked about endorsing in the primary, Scott said he was “going to recommend that the voters study each candidate” and that “the best way for me to be helpful is to not weigh in on who they should endorse.”
Scott on Wednesday had just unveiled his girlfriend, after months of teasing her existence. Scott brought the woman, Mindy Noce, onstage for photos after the debate in Miami. He had faced questions throughout his candidacy about being a 58-year-old bachelor, though Scott assured an audience in Iowa in September that he was dating a “lovely Christian girl.”
Lisa Kashinsky contributed to this report.
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