Rick Scott: Certain people who shall remain nameless should stop trash-talking our Senate candidates

Source: Hot Air

I’m putting this on your radar in case it becomes a major subplot in Republican politics this fall. Or even next year.

Mitch McConnell is a convenient scapegoat for populists for all sorts of things, most recently his perfectly accurate assessment that “candidate quality” among the GOP’s Senate recruits might help Democrats hold the Senate. Never mind that McConnell recently held a fundraiser with some of those same low-quality candidates. And never mind that his PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, is spending mega-bucks to help those candidates this fall — $34 million for Oz in Pennsylvania, $37 million for Walker in Georgia, $28 million for J.D. Vance in Ohio, where Republicans aren’t supposed to need to spend to win anymore.

McConnell makes for a nice whipping boy because practically everyone hates him. The left despises him for the Merrick Garland blockade in 2016, among other things, and the MAGA right despises him as the consummate go-along-to-get-along establishmentarian. (Never mind that whole Merrick Garland blockade.) Trump despises him because McConnell wouldn’t go along with his coup plot and took to denouncing him on the Senate floor after Trump was acquitted by the Senate. No one likes Mitch.

…Especially other Republicans who worry that they’ll be blamed instead of him if the GOP underperforms in Senate races in November.

Which makes this passage from a new op-ed by Rick Scott noteworthy.

Unfortunately, many of the very people responsible for losing the Senate last cycle are now trying to stop us from winning the majority this time by trash-talking our Republican candidates. It’s an amazing act of cowardice, and ultimately, it’s treasonous to the conservative cause. Giving anonymous quotes to help the Washington Post or the New York Times write stories trashing Republicans is the same as working with the Democratic National Committee.

If you want to talk about the need to raise more money to promote our candidates versus the Democrats’ terrible candidates, I agree. If you want to trash-talk our candidates to help the Democrats, pipe down. That’s not what leaders do. And Republicans need to be leaders that build up the team and do everything they can to get the entire team over the finish line.

Ultimately, though, when you complain and lament that we have “bad candidates,” what you are really saying is that you have contempt for the voters who chose them. Now we are at the heart of the matter. Much of Washington’s chattering class disrespects and secretly (or not so secretly) loathes Republican voters.

Whoever could he mean?

There are three reasons why the Scott/McConnell tension is worth watching. First, there’s history here. Scott pissed off McConnell and other Republicans when he insisted on publishing his own policy agenda for the midterms earlier this year. McConnell’s strategy has been not to offer any agenda to midterm voters, believing that that will help turn the election into a referendum on Biden and the Democrats. If voters go into the booth thinking about inflation and Afghanistan, Republicans will have a good night. If they go in there wondering if they prefer Biden’s policies to the Republican alternative, that could get dicey. McConnell’s worries were confirmed when Dems pounced on some of the recommendations in Scott’s plan, accusing him and the GOP of wanting to slash Social Security and Medicare and to force seniors who currently pay no federal income tax to pony up. Which led to this extremely cringy scene in March. Looks like there’s bad blood now.

Second, Scott isn’t just any Republican senator. He’s the chair this year of the NRSC, the group responsible for getting Republican candidates elected to the Senate. If the GOP flames out, the NRSC will be blamed. And if the NRSC is blamed, Scott will be blamed. The NRSC has already taken flak for burning through most of its war chest this cycle, leaving it with $28.5 million in the bank at the end of June compared to $53.5 million for its Democratic counterpart. The cash crunch led to the group dialing back ad spending in some key races this fall and an urgent plea from the head of the RNC to major donors to chip in soon before the Senate slips away. “People are asking, ‘What the hell is going on?’” said one GOP strategist to Politico about the disappearing ads. “Why are we cutting in August? I’ve never seen it like this before.” Meanwhile, Scott was recently caught vacationing on a yacht in Italy instead of hunkering down for the fight ahead. (I wonder who could have leaked that news to the media.) If GOP candidates in swing states get outspent by the Dems (very likely) and end up falling just short (increasingly plausible), fingers will point at Scott. So here he is pointing his own finger at McConnell in advance for having supposedly demoralized conservatives with his criticism or whatever.

Third, Scott has been touted as a potential challenger to McConnell to lead the GOP caucus. Trump is spoiling to topple Cocaine Mitch from leadership as revenge for opposing the coup plot and he makes no bones about it in interviews:

He’s been hunting around for someone with the stones to take on McConnell and reportedly approached Scott about doing so this past February. Members of Trump’s circle have also been known to hint that Scott might be interested in the job. He’s unlikely to defeat McConnell in a leadership challenge — but if the GOP wins big in Senate races this fall, things could get interesting. A bunch of new senators like Vance and Blake Masters whose politics don’t align with McConnell’s would be joining the caucus and Scott’s political star would be rising thanks to the NRSC’s big victory. If Trump threw his full weight behind a Scott leadership bid, threatening to primary any senator who opposes it, could that get more than half the caucus to ditch Mitch and support Scott?

Probably not. But as I said up top, the McConnell vs. Scott feud is now in full flower. Stay tuned.