National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Rick Scott pushed back on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for acknowledging last month that “candidate quality” could hurt the party’s ability to take back the chamber.
On Thursday, Politico published an interview with Scott saying that he and McConnell have a “strategic disagreement” over the party’s candidates, and the Washington Examiner released an op-ed by Scott taking issue with the view that they could cost the GOP the Senate.
“If you want to talk about the need to raise more money to promote our candidates versus the Democrats’ terrible candidates, I agree,” wrote the Florida Republican senator. “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,” added Scott. “Much of Washington’s chattering class disrespects and secretly (or not so secretly) loathes Republican voters.”
A McConnell spokesperson declined a request for comment.
Scott’s op-ed did not explicitly mention McConnell’s name, but its targets — the Senate minority leader and Republican strategists anonymously quoted dismissing the party’s own candidates — were clear. Last month, McConnell said that “there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate,” noting that “candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome” of Senate races.
Afterwards, McConnell has praised Republican candidates, including saying Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania “has a great shot at winning.” But the Senate Leadership Fund, a McConnell-aligned Super PAC, announced it would spend $28 million in Ohio, a state former President Donald Trump won in 2020 by eight points, as Senate Republican nominee J.D. Vance struggles against Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan. Republicans are also concerned about their Senate candidates in Georgia, Arizona and elsewhere.
“Sen. McConnell and I clearly have a strategic disagreement here. … We have great candidates,” Scott told Politico. “He wants to do the same thing I want to do: I want to get a majority. And I think it’s important that we’re all cheerleaders for our candidates.”
Scott and McConnell, the longest-serving Senate Republican leader, have fought this election cycle over the party’s strategy to take back the Senate, including Scott’s decision to release a plan to “rescue America” that at least briefly shifted the attention from Republicans’ perceived failures of the Biden administration. The White House sharply criticized Scott’s provisions to have every American pay at least some income tax and to sunset all federal laws in five years.
“Let me tell you what would not be a part of our agenda,” said McConnell at a news conference after Scott unveiled his plan. “We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people, and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years.”
In June, Scott dropped the controversial provisions in a revised proposal.