Rick Scott did not flip the Senate in favor of the Republicans, then lost to McConnell. Now what?

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Rumors about the political rise of US Sen. Rick Scott, the head of the Republican Party’s 2022 campaign arm in the Senate, have been swirling for months.

In February, the junior senator from Florida broke ranks to implement a controversial policy plan Scott said was necessary to define the party’s agenda, the details of which put him at odds with other Republicans and made him a favorite target of attacks. democrats.

He then publicly feuded with Senate Republican Party leader Mitch McConnell over political strategy. Those disagreements continued after Election Day when the two men’s allies scuffled over the Georgia runoff, according to news reports.

But this week, the cliffhanger over his leadership challenge ended quickly. Republicans failed to retake the Senate as Democrats bucked historical trends and flipped a key Pennsylvania seat blue. Days later, Scott soundly lost his bid to become minority leader. The vote was 37-10 in favor of McConnell’s re-election, the senators said.

Related: Florida’s Rick Scott Loses Nomination for Senate GOP Leader, McConnell Gets Reelected

Back-to-back Senate majority losses and the effort to oust McConnell led some pundits, including Republicans, to question the wisdom of Scott’s strategy and where it leaves him in the long term.

Scott is rumored to have national ambitions, but some observers wonder if these events could leave him the odd man out among Florida’s ambitious leaders, as former President Donald Trump announces his 2024 candidacy and Gov. Ron DeSantis enjoys building hype. presidential. Senator Marco Rubio also won re-election by a double-digit landslide.

“It’s clear that in Rick Scott you have someone who remains restless and is trying to find a path to the White House or some level of national prominence and there just isn’t an opening right now for him,” said former Republican Rep. David Jolly, now a political commentator. “So he’s trying to create one.”

Scott, for his part, has said he is staying the course and that his actions stem from his desire to hold the Washington establishment accountable.

“Today marks the beginning of a new era in the Senate Republican Conference,” he said in a statement after losing the leadership vote to McConnell. “My determination to stand up for what this nation’s Republicans stand for has never been stronger than it is today. … I never thought for a moment that this fight would be easy, but I am optimistic that, together, Republicans can rescue America.”

Why didn’t the Republicans manage to flip the Senate?

Before the midterm elections that would end up disappointing Republicans nationally, Scott had already faced questions about how he was spending the Senate Republican National Committee’s money.

The committee created ads prominently featuring Scott, prompting accusations that he was using him to enhance his own name identification despite not being up for re-election.

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Scott also bet big on trying to attract small online donors, according to the New York Times, which at first helped him break fundraising records, then led to much of that cash quickly vanishing as donations didn’t managed to offset the costs. . After the election, two Republican senators suggested an audit of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which Scott led, according to Politico. Scott responded by alleging financial misdeeds by the committee’s previous leadership.

Scott could not be reached for this story through the committee or his office. But Chris Hartline, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told other media outlets that the addition of new donors was a smart investment that will benefit the Republican Party, and that the committee’s expenses are already regularly reported to the Federal Election Commission.

Amid the allegations from Republicans, other reasons have emerged as possible contributors as to why the party dramatically exceeded expectations of a “red wave.”

McConnell and others have also blamed the quality of the candidates, many of whom were Trump-backed political newcomers with far-right views that some voters may have found too extreme.

Scott chose not to interfere in the disputed Republican primary, but the Washington Post revealed that Democrats were meddling heavily, sometimes on behalf of harder-line Republican candidates who would be easier to beat.

“People voted normal,” said US Representative-elect Jared Moskowitz, a Broward County Democrat who served in state government as a legislator under Scott and served in the DeSantis administration. before running for Congress. “They don’t want people talking about the denial of the election, they don’t want to see another January 6th. … I don’t think people care about Hunter Biden’s laptop unless the laptop is the secret to lowering gas prices.”

goes for the king

The angst directed at McConnell is nothing new. But some have questioned why Scott would seek a promotion after a poor review of his work by voters.

After the midterm elections, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas also said Republicans should “fire” McConnell as their leader because the GOP had missed a “generational opportunity.” various republicans Senators, including Scott and Rubio, urged delaying Senate leadership elections until after the Dec. 6 runoff in Georgia. Trump has also called on Republicans to oust McConnell.

However, when the votes were added up, the rebellion against McConnell posed no serious threat.

“If you’re going to go after the king, you better take his head off,” said Alex Patton, a Republican pollster in Gainesville. “(Scott) is going to be away for a while. … Don’t underestimate Mitch McConnell.”

Some political analysts have suggested that in the future, some Republican voters may appreciate Scott’s unsuccessful challenge to McConnell as an effort to represent the Republican Party’s right flank against the establishment.

In the run up to the vote, even US Rep. Matt Gaetz, who has publicly clashed with Scott multiple times, tweeted his support, saying, “Same people, same lot, senators should vote for RICK SCOTT.”

“Some people may see it as disloyal to challenge, but some people may give you credit for putting yourself out there,” said Beth Rosenson, a professor of political science at the University of Florida.

But Patton dismissed the idea that the failed leadership bid could be seen as beneficial. That’s just “a good public relations spin,” he said.

He agreed that dual setbacks will not be politically fatal.

Despite his long-rumored presidential ambitions, Scott recently said he plans to run for re-election in 2024, according to a recording shared by his office.

Given Florida’s swing to the right, Scott’s current political woes may not have any impact on a re-election bid in two years, several observers said.

In the meantime, however, he is not expected to stop speaking out about his desire for change within the Republican Party.

“I think it is time for the Senate Republican Conference to be much bolder and more determined than in the past,” he wrote in the letter to his colleagues announcing his challenge to McConnell. “We must begin to say what we are for, not just what we are against.”

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