Leadership abhors a vacuum and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is Exhibit A. First, McConnell had the chance to finish off Donald Trump’s political future during his second impeachment but failed to seal the deal.
Next, McConnell had a chance to give Americans a Republican vision they could vote for in November, but he demurred—choosing instead to offer nothing for which Republicans could be held to account as a cynical campaign strategy.
Now, McConnell’s getting burned on both fronts—by Scott and Trump alike. Trump is getting his jollies by carpet bombing the 2022 landscape with endorsements at will. At the same time, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who's running the Senate GOP's bid to retake the upper chamber, has pounced on McConnell's unsteady grip on the caucus.
Scott used a Wall Street Journal op-ed to malign his critics as "careerists in Washington" and jeered, "Bring it on." He also restructured the National Republican Senatorial Committee's fundraising efforts to line his own campaign coffers and then punched back at his detractors.
“We don’t spend much time worrying about criticisms from anonymous Republican consultants who lost the Senate last cycle and who have gotten rich off maintaining the status quo,” Chris Hartline, NRSC communications director and Scott campaign spokesperson, told the Post.
But the pugnacity of Scott and his allies doesn't reverse the fact that he's adding significant deadweight to GOP efforts in November.
For one, he sucking up a lot of money for himself. Donors at some of his events (including in Florida) have been asked to divide their first $10,800 between Scott's campaign account and his own leadership PAC before gifting more to the NRSC account.
The Senate GOP committee is pretty flush at $33 million—$13 million more than at the same point in 2020 and more than twice as much in 2018.
But Scott isn't up for reelection and, as one GOP strategist noted, “He is doing it in a state where there is an incumbent senator who is in-cycle." That would be Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
But that's just one example plaguing what colleagues joke has become the "National Rick Scott Committee." Another change includes Scott whittling down the cut for candidates who let the NRSC fundraise off their images in digital ads. Candidates used to split the haul 50-50 with the committee along with getting donors' names but, under Scott, they get just 10% of donations plus donor names.
Overall, the takeaway among many of the colleagues Scott is supposed to be helping is that "Rick Scott seems to care a lot more about his political future than the Senate incumbents he is supposed to be working for,” according to one anonymous source.
But one group that is extremely pleased with Scott's efforts is Senate Democrats.
“We’ve got three words for him: Keep it up,” said David Bergstein, the communications director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has been readily highlighting Scott's plan to raise taxes on more than 100 million American households as well as sunset Medicare and Social Security.
"No NRSC chair has done more for Senate Democrats than Rick Scott,” Bergstein added.
Someone else who applauds Scott's self-serving actions is a fellow Florida man who loves anyone and anything that becomes a thorn in McConnell's side.
“I don’t agree with everything in the plan, but Rick is a good man,” Donald Trump said.
Trump’s statement, however, surely says more about his hatred for McConnell than it does Scott's stewardship of the NRSC.
“I’d take Romney over McConnell,” Trump recently said of Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who became the lone GOP senator to vote in favor of Trump's first impeachment. “I think he’d do a better job, and I think Romney is a lowlife.”
For his part, McConnell would be in a much better position to put Scott's GOP agenda to rest if he would bother to pound out a plan of his own. But the fact is, Scott dared to tell Americans what Republicans stand for and McConnell hasn't. And there's really no telling who will be running the Senate GOP caucus if Trump runs again in 2024 and wins.
McConnell can thank himself for that too.