TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Republican Sen. Rick Scott enters his 2024 re-election bid as the overwhelming favorite in the race at a time when Democrats in Florida have never been weaker.

The holders usually enter with some advantage. But in Scott’s case, he’s up against a Florida Democratic Party that hasn’t won a Senate race since 2012, and is coming off a midterm election cycle in which Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis won by nearly 20 points. on what many saw as a rock. – background moment for the party.

That problem for Democrats is seen most clearly through the reconfigured composition of the state electorate.

The last time Scott was on the ballot, in 2018, Democrats had a nearly 270,000 voter registration advantage, a number that has turned into a 400,000-plus voter advantage for Republicans after the GOP reversed millions of dollars in registration efforts in recent years.

During the 2022 midterm elections, the national Democratic caucuses all but deserted the state, spending just $2 million compared to $60 million during the 2014 midterm elections. However, because it is a presidential cycle, Scott anticipates more spending. by the national Democrats this time.

“It is the first cycle of presidential elections in which I will be. It remains the largest swing state. The national Democratic Party is going to spend money here,” Scott told NBC News during an interview at a downtown Tampa Starbucks this week. «I think they [Democrats] you will need Florida. There are a lot of swing states. If you can get Florida, that’s a great win.»

The number of states at stake is part of the hard calculation for groups like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Overall, six Senate Democratic incumbents face tough re-election offers: Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin, Nevada’s Jacky Rosen, Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Montana’s Jon Tester, as well as Kyrsten Sinema. of Arizona, which is now independent.

Democrats are trying to remain optimistic. They point out that in his two gubernatorial races and one US Senate race, Scott never won by more than 2 percentage points, even in a 2018 recount that saw him defeat Democratic Senator Bill Nelson by just 10,033 votes. .

“There are more popular pythons in Florida than Rick Scott’s plan to cut Medicare and Social Security,” said David Bergstein, DSCC director of communications.

That’s a reference to «save americaThe plan Scott presented during the 2022 midterms when he was chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. During his tenure, the party underperformed and saw Democrats expand their majority in the Senate.

One part of Scott’s plan was to end all federal legislation after five years, which Democrats and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., used to frame Scott by proposing to suspend health programs. rights like Medicare and Social Security. The original plan also said that «all Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game.» Scott revised the proposal after receiving criticism for proposing that lower-income Americans pay more taxes.

The plan became the flashpoint of an open dispute between Scott and McConnell. Scott says he welcomes Democrats using his proposal on the campaign trail and is ready to hit back.

“I will fight for my ideas any day,” Scott said. “Biden. Schumer. McConnell lied about it. He was never going to cut any shows.”

Scott and McConnell openly clashed throughout the 2022 midterm elections, not only over the direction of the Republicans’ midterm senatorial races, but also over a failed leadership challenge in which Scott attempted to unseat McConnell as republican leader.

However, Scott said his relationship with McConnell is «fine.»

“He is the Republican leader,” Scott said, without elaborating.

Scott could also face headwinds on the abortion issue. DeSantis signed a six-week abortion ban, which he did during a late-night closed-door signing ceremony. The quiet nature of the bill’s signing was seen as an acknowledgment that the proposal is politically toxic, and the issue will again loom large a cycle after the 2022 midterms, when Democrats benefited from the backlash. violence to the Supreme Court which overturned Roe v. Wade.

In addition, a coalition of left-leaning groups this week announced a bill on Florida’s ballot that would include language in the state constitution that would legalize abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Scott, who said that as governor he would have signed a six-week abortion ban, said he is not worried about running in a political environment so heavily influenced by the abortion issue, or even potentially on the same ballot as a proposed constitutional amendment.

“We have to figure out how we explain where [Democrats] they are,” Scott said. “Democrats are not where the country is” on abortion.

For months, Democrats have had a short list of potential candidates, but so far none have signaled that they are definitely running and prospects have largely dismissed questions on the matter. Among those the Democrats would like to run are former NBA legends Dwyane Wade and Grant Hill, but even those trying to recruit them acknowledge they are long shots.

Among the more realistic candidates who might consider running is Jennifer Jenkins, a member of the Brevard County School Board, who has deep ties to the party and has acted as a counterweight to many of the high-profile culture war-influenced education fights of the Republican Party. She was recently in Washington, DC, speaking at The Pipeline Fund, a group dedicated to building a diverse bank of progressive candidates. While there, he met with a handful of donors and Democratic-leaning groups as he ponders a possible Senate run.

Jenkins is one of the newer names being openly discussed by Democrats eager to run a nominee against Scott. Others include former Rep. Stephanie Murphy, State Sen. Shev Jones and former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

Getting a head start on fundraising is key for either candidate because Scott has tapped into his own significant personal wealth. in each of his first three state races. In his interview with NBC News he didn’t rule out doing it again in 2024, but he did say «I won’t have to.»

Although Democrats are slower this cycle to rally behind a favorite, They remain hopeful that Scott’s positions in the Senate, specifically the 11-point plan, the fact that he has had narrow victories in the past, and the drive to run in a presidential election cycle when Democrats are in numbers much bigger ones will help. they reconfigure the increasingly entrenched narrative that Democrats can no longer win the state.

«Floridians had the last straw with Rick Scott when he proposed cutting Medicare and Social Security, absurd on so many levels,» said Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried. «Now he’s doubling down on being out of the Florida mainstream by praising the state’s dangerous and unconstitutional new abortion ban.»