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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell listens as Sen.  Rick Scott speaks during a news conference in Washington on May 18, 2021.Samuel Corum / Bloomberg via Getty Images, File

Why Rick Scott reportedly reversed course on challenging McConnell

Rick Scott was reportedly all set to launch a challenge against Mitch McConnell. Then the election results came in.


Over the course of several months, a surprising number of Republican senators and Senate candidates hedged on whether they’d support Mitch McConnell staying on as the chamber’s GOP leader. In fact, as Election Day drew closer, the list grew.

As recently as Monday, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, for example, told reporters that he didn’t plan to support the current Senate minority leader. Asked who should be the next GOP leader, Hawley replied, “Not Mitch McConnell.” A week earlier, Ohio’s J.D. Vance was also reluctant to commit to backing McConnell. The list also included South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and Missouri’s Eric Schmitt, among others.

What McConnell’s intra-party critics didn’t have was a credible alternative who was willing to run against him. As far as Donald Trump was concerned, Sen. Rick Scott was the right choice — and there was every reason to believe the Floridian agreed.

In September, on the heels of public feuding between the two, Scott was coy when asked about whether he’d support McConnell staying on the party’s Senate leader, and this past weekend, Scott seemed reluctant to rule out the possibility.

And now we know why. Politico reported overnight:

For nearly two years, former President Donald Trump has demanded Senate Republicans dump Mitch McConnell as their leader but has never offered an alternative. This week, one was set to emerge: the man in charge of the Senate Republican campaign arm who has been feuding with McConnell for much of the year.

According to Politico’s reporting, which has not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, Scott had gone so far as to make an announcement video declaring his intentions.

So what happened? According to the article, Scott changed his mind on Wednesday morning — right around the time the political world came to realize that Republicans weren’t likely to take control of the chamber.

Let’s not forget that Scott appeared to have a larger plan in mind. The Floridian ran unopposed last year in the race to chair the National Republican Senatorial Committee — a position that gave Scott an opportunity to recruit like-minded candidates, make connections with party donors, and create new allies. If the GOP flipped partisan control of the chamber — an outcome that the political world saw as likely — Scott would be the hero who delivered on the party’s goal.

Indeed, it was just a few weeks ago when the NRSS chair boasted that his party had a path to a 55-seat majority. Scott was the genius who’d make it all happen.

At that point, he could continue to climb the ladder. A White House bid was a distinct possibility.

That is, until this week, when we came to realize that Scott had apparently failed, and it was time to abandon the plan to run for party leader.

If the Floridian is looking for any favors from McConnell over the next couple of years, he probably shouldn’t get his hopes up.