Mr Scott, whose bachelor status has regularly been reported on during the campaign, brought Mindy Noce, an interior designer and a mother of three from Charleston, up on stage after the debate to pose for a photo.
Initially, it was unclear who Ms Noce was as she stood next to Mr Scott, but her appearance sparked online speculation that she could be his often-mentioned but never-before-seen partner.
Mr Scott, 58, told the press after the debate that they have been dating for “about a year”.
The senator has been mentioning a possible girlfriend as he campaigned this summer after he was questioned about being unmarried. James Buchanan, who served as president between 1857 and 1861 is the only president to never have been married, with the White House website describing him as “tall, stately, stiffly formal in the high stock he wore around his jowls”.
During the summer, Mr Scott chose not to share Ms Noce’s name or bring her to events, with his status as a single man becoming evident as his rivals Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley often mentioned their spouses.
Frontrunner and former President Donald Trump is on his third marriage.
Mr Scott told an Iowa audience in September that he was dating “a lovely Christian girl,” but didn’t indicate when she might join him in a public setting.
In May, the senator appeared at an Axios event, saying, “To suggest that somehow being married or not married is going to be the determining factor of whether you’re a good president or not — it sounds like we’re living in 1963 and not 2023”.
In 2012, Mr Scott told the National Journal: “At the end of the day, the Bible is very clear – abstinence until marriage. Not to do so is a sin.”
He claimed to have adhered to that pledge into his 30s, but following his appointment to the senate in 2012, the National Journal asked the then 46-year-old if he was sticking to that pledge.
“Not as well as I did then,” he said at the time.
“The Bible’s right,” he added. “You’re better off to wait. I just wish we all had more patience.”
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