Voices: Republicans already know who to blame for their looming Senate disaster

·4-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

If you had a bad week, just take comfort in knowing it likely wasn’t as terrible as Florida Senator Rick Scott’s.

Campaign committee chairmen rarely make headlines as they go about their largely thankless work. They generally exist to raise money, recruit candidates and determine which races to support. Yet Scott, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has become Democrats’ latest punching bag, and Republicans seem ready to let him take the blame.

By comparison, Scott’s Democratic Senate counterpart Gary Peters of Michigan is rarely heard from. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney caused a stir among his caucus for his strategy of backing right-wing MAGA candidates in GOP primaries in an attempt to “choose” the most beatable opponents available for November. But Scott – the self-funded former two-term governor of Florida – seemed to have bigger ambitions. When he spoke to The Independent last year, he cited New Hampshire, Nevada, Georgia and Arizona as potential pickup opportunities for his party, to say nothing of holding seats in North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

He talked about how “Hispanics are Republicans,” hoping to ride the rightward trend of the demographic group to even further victory. He had good reason to believe that, too, given that he won his Florida seat in 2018 because Democratic Senator Bill Nelson couldn’t be bothered to do much Spanish-language outreach in a state with a huge Latino population.

Yet nowadays, Scott and his party are doing whatever they can to protect the Senate campaign from disaster.

In Pennsylvania, Dr Mehmet Oz is busy picking out his crudité tray. Arizona candidate Blake Masters is scrubbing his website of references to abortion, while Mitch McConnell himself has now had to bail out JD Vance in Ohio.

Scott has also handed the Democrats an ideal target in the form of a 12-point plan laying out his agenda for a Republican Senate. The opposition immediately latched onto it, pillorying him for (among other things) saying that all Americans, including poor ones, should pay some taxes.

McConnell has tried to back away from Scott’s proposals, recognizing that his party must stay laser-focused on Biden lest they give Democrats even more fodder. But it may be too late. Months after the plan was released, Scott’s various proposals are still proving to be major liabilities. In a rally in Maryland this week, Biden criticized it for proposing that every government program – including Social Security and Medicare – should have a sunset period of five years.

The overall picture is thus looking grim, and Scott’s own decisions aren’t helping.

On Saturday, as the NRSC pulled ads from races around the country, The Washington Post published a story reporting that many Republicans and major donors want to know where all of their money went. And then Axios reported that Scott had inexplicably decided to take a vacation to Italy.

NRSC spokesman Chris Hartline said the trip was planned a year ago to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary. Fair enough. But to choose a destination on the other side of the globe while charged with overseeing a critical domestic election cycle is strange at best – especially when there are a plethora of vacation-friendly places to celebrate in Scott’s own state. (Hialeah, for a start, or Little Havana in Miami.)

These stories would not be leaking if things were going well, but Republicans who expected this election to be a slam-dunk are now watching their party missing straight-up free throws. Senators, staffers and other donors are incredibly dissatisfied; they want to know just what happened to their cash and their once-taken-for-granted electoral advantage. And Scott has long annoyed some of them by using the NRSC as his own personal promotion platform – leading some to call it the “National Rick Scott Committee”.

This isn’t to say that Scott’s career is entirely doomed if Republicans flop when they were meant to flip. In 1998, at the height of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, Republicans failed to increase their majority by a single seat – and in 2000, they lost a net four seats, resulting in the last 50-50 Senate split. The NRSC Chairman at the time? Addison Mitchell “Mitch” McConnell.