When Sen. Rick Scott sought the chairmanship of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, no one was especially surprised when he ran unopposed. The elevation seemed to make sense for everyone involved.
For the Floridian, this was an opportunity to claim a position in the GOP leadership after just a few years on Capitol Hill, while simultaneously establishing strong relationships with incumbents and candidates nationwide — ties that could pay dividends if Scott were to launch a bid for national office.
What’s more, with Republicans operating under the assumption that they would reclaim the Senate majority in the 2022 midterms, Scott looked forward to taking credit for the achievement, positioning himself as the partisan hero who helped make the majority possible.
For Republicans, there were also upsides: The Floridian had established a robust fundraising network; his own re-election was still a few years away; and with no real interest in governing, Scott would likely devote every waking hour to the partisan cause. This was a relationship that would work to the benefit of everyone in GOP politics.
Or so they thought.
The first sign of trouble came literally in the first week of the new Congress. Senate Republican leaders implored their members to be responsible and not oppose the certification of the 2020 election results. Eight GOP senators ignored the calls — including Scott.
In the months that followed, under Scott’s leadership, the National Republican Senatorial Committee set out to recruit their top choices in several key 2022 contests. Those efforts failed.
Soon after, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that his conference would not present a policy blueprint ahead of the midterm elections, Florida’s junior senator did the opposite — unveiling a radical vision that Democrats continue to treat as a pinata.
Scott nevertheless used NRSC resources to promote himself and his unpopular plan, fueling chatter that “NRSC” stood for the “National Rick Scott Committee.”
By all appearances, tensions between the senator and his party have reached a new and uncomfortable level. The Washington Post reported:
Republican Senate hopefuls are getting crushed on airwaves across the country while their national campaign fund is pulling ads and running low on cash — leading some campaign advisers to ask where all the money went and to demand an audit of the committee’s finances, according to Republican strategists involved in the discussions.
Matters came to a head last week when The New York Times reported that the National Republican Senatorial Committee has scaled back its investments in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Arizona — three of the nation’s most important battleground states — which the newspaper characterized as “a likely sign of financial troubles headed into the peak of the 2022 midterm election season.”
The decision was soon followed by questions about why the NRSC suddenly lacked money after months of robust fundraising.
The problem for the party, however, wasn’t that the NRSC failed to raise a lot of money. Rather, the problem was that the Scott-led enterprise already spent a lot of the haul, and didn’t have much to show for the investments.
A national Republican consultant working on Senate races told the Post, in reference to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, “If they were a corporation, the CEO would be fired and investigated. The way this money has been burned, there needs to be an audit or investigation because we’re not gonna take the Senate now and this money has been squandered. It’s a rip-off.”
Remember, it’s not as if Scott enjoyed a reservoir of goodwill he could draw upon. The Washington Post published a separate report in April noting that the Floridian has faced private rebukes from colleagues from his own party, accused of running the NRSC “in a way that benefits his own future over the candidates he was hired to get elected.”
The article added, “He has directed a sizable share of his fundraising as NRSC chair to his own accounts, while shifting digital revenue away from Senate campaigns and buying ads promoting himself that look all but identical to spots he does for the national committee.”
For its part, the NRSC insists all is well, and the latest Post report quoted Republican candidates saying nice things about the campaign committee’s work.
But it’s tough to take stock of the circumstances and think Scott is succeeding. Just this morning, NBC News reported on the latest Senate fundraising numbers, which showed the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee outraising its Republican counterpart for the fourth consecutive month.
The same report added, “With less than three months until the November elections, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee appears to be in a more formidable financial position, with $54.1 million cash on hand, well more than double the $23 million left in the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s account.”
To twist the knife a bit, the DSCC will reportedly deliver a book — “Auditing for Dummies” — to NRSC headquarters today.