2022 midterms

The Mitch McConnell vs. Rick Scott Spat Is Heating Up

Mitch holds Rick in minimum high regard. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

House Republicans are not happy campers following the midterm elections, and rumors of nasty scheming to blackmail or even depose Kevin McCarthy abound. But first, everyone has to wait to make absolutely sure he’s indeed the next Speaker, and if so how, much of a margin of control he can muster.

Senate Republicans, on the other hand, have no fundamental suspense about their fate; win or lose in the December 6 Georgia runoff, Democrats will continue to control the Senate for the next two years (barring a party switch, which, if it were going to happen, would have probably happened during the last two years). So they’re fully in blame-game mode. There was a big initial wave of anger at Donald Trump for his meddling in the campaign, which helped produce some dubious Senate nominees. Now, MAGA folk are retaliating by blaming Mitch McConnell, who was a lot more involved in general-election campaigns than Trump. Since McConnell and his allies have made a habit of never directly confronting Trump, they’re inclined to pin the bad campaigns on Trump ally and National Republican Senate Campaign Committee chairman Rick Scott. The sniping between those two is getting pretty toxic, as The Wall Street Journal reports:

Josh Holmes, a Republican strategist who previously served as chief of staff to Mr. McConnell, said Mr. Scott made errors in strategy and fundraising in running the campaign arm and accused Mr. Scott of falling short in communicating and consulting with fellow senators …

Chris Hartline, an NRSC spokesman, said Mr. McConnell’s allies, who run the Senate Leadership Fund super PAC, spent months undermining the ability of the NRSC and Republican Senate campaigns to raise money by “constantly trashing our candidates publicly and privately, and telling donors not to give to us or our campaigns.”

Scott himself poured gasoline on the fire during an appearance on a Fox News Sunday show, as The Hill noted:

“What do we stand for? What are we hell-bent to get done?” Scott asked. “The leadership in the Republican Senate says, ‘No, you cannot have a plan. We’re just going to run against how bad the Democrats are.’ And, actually, then they cave into the Democrats …”

Scott, the chair of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, told Maria Bartiromo on Fox News channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures” that Republicans “caved in on the debt ceiling, caved in on a gun bill, caved in on a fake infrastructure bill.”

Scott’s complaint about not being allowed to have a plan is an allusion to his wildly extremist “11 Point Plan to Rescue America” that he released early this year, to the joy of Democrats who drew attention to its provisions requiring poor people to pay income taxes and sunsetting Social Security and Medicare. Scott’s move deeply annoyed McConnell, who repudiated the plan publicly. And Scott clearly hasn’t gotten over the spat. His claim that under McConnell’s leadership Republicans “caved” to Democrats on a handful of occasions (e.g., in preventing a debt default that would have made today’s economic conditions look benign and in agreeing to a very popular infrastructure bill) is nearly as hilarious as Scott’s plan. Anyone who couldn’t tell the difference between Democrats and Republicans in this election clearly wasn’t paying attention to anything in particular that happened in Washington. But Scott is echoing the perpetual complaint of ideologues in both parties (stronger in the GOP by far) that any electoral setback of any kind is attributable to a failure to “fight” the other side as viciously as is humanly possible. This also happens to align with Trump’s recent views on the GOP and “Old Crow” McConnell’s penchant for deal-making.

MAGA senators (e.g., Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz) wanting to depose or at least frighten McConnell made a lot of noise about delaying the Senate leadership vote scheduled for later this week on grounds that Republicans need to see what happens in Georgia (and/or to give Senator-elect Walker, if he wins, a vote on who should be his leader). Now that the delay tactic has failed, a rival to McConnell has finally emerged. You guessed it: it’s Rick Scott! Politico has the story:

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) announced a challenge to Mitch McConnell in a closed-door party lunch on Tuesday afternoon, the first such opposition that the Senate GOP leader is facing in 15 years at the helm. …

“I’m writing to you today because I believe it’s time for the Senate Republican Conference to be far more bold and resolute than we have been in the past,” Scott said in a message to colleagues announcing his bid. “I understand that I won’t gain the support of every member of our Conference, but we all have a clear choice to make. If you simply want to stick with the status quo, don’t vote for me.”

Sure enough, a comfortable majority won’t vote for Scott:

It’s all rather predictable, but also a sign that Republican divisions going into a potentially even more momentous 2024 election cycle aren’t limited to the prospect of a Trump-DeSantis battle over the presidential nomination.

This post was updated after Scott announced his bid against McConnell.

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The Mitch McConnell vs. Rick Scott Spat Is Heating Up