As 2021 got underway, Sen. Rick Scott initially had reason for optimism. He'd just been elected as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee — he ran unopposed — which gave him a leadership post that would raise his national profile and give him new influence within the party.
It wasn’t long, however, before the Floridian ran into trouble. Scott was one of the eight Republican senators who voted at least once to reject certifying President Joe Biden’s victory, even after the insurrectionist attack on the Capitol. It meant corporate donors that pulled away from anti-election lawmakers curtailed support for the NRSC chair, at least temporarily.
Nearly a week after the riot, The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman noted that there was “very real concern” among Republicans that Scott would be a drag on his party. It wasn’t long before Democrats raised the prospect of the Floridian having to resign from his post.
We now know, of course, that Scott did not step down. Whether Republicans would’ve been better off if he had resigned is a separate matter. National Journal highlighted the NRSC chair’s ongoing troubles.
A good rule for lawmakers who head campaign committees is to follow the Hippocratic oath of politics: First, do no harm. The job of an effective campaign committee chair is to raise lots of money, recruit strong candidates with backgrounds that match the states and districts they’re running in, and most importantly, stay away from controversy.
To be sure, Scott is raising plenty of money, and Senate Republicans are still relatively well positioned to make gains in the midterm elections in the fall.
But on every other front, Scott has run into problems of his own making, and he certainly hasn't "stayed away from controversy."
- Scott tried and failed to recruit several popular GOP governors to launch Senate campaigns.
- Scott unveiled a highly provocative policy blueprint, in defiance of other party leaders’ wishes, which included a proposed tax hike on millions of lower-income Americans. In the process, he handed Democrats a target and an opportunity to go on the offensive.
- The NRSC, which Scott currently leads, is “disavowing any connection“ to the senator’s own governing plan.
- Scott appears to be publicly feuding with his own party leader, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
National Journal’s report added, “Republican strategists are flummoxed that the chairman would clumsily insert himself into the campaign conversation when his main job is to be a team player and do whatever it takes to help Republican candidates running for office.”
To the extent that Scott’s recent moves are part of an effort to lay the groundwork for a national campaign, he probably shouldn’t expect too many endorsements from his fellow GOP senators.