Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), the head of the Senate GOP campaign arm, told fellow Republicans to “pipe down” with their criticism of Senate nominees in a fiery opinion piece posted Thursday by The Washington Examiner.
“Unfortunately, many of the very people responsible for losing the Senate last cycle are now trying to stop us from winning the majority this time by trash-talking our Republican candidates. It’s an amazing act of cowardice, and ultimately, it’s treasonous to the conservative cause,” wrote Scott, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
The missive is yet another sign of angst among top Republicans over their chances of taking back the evenly divided Senate in November, which at the moment don’t look very good. Several of the GOP’s candidates in battleground states are struggling, including Blake Masters in Arizona, Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, and Herschel Walker in Georgia. All three were nominated due in large part to the support of former President Donald Trump.
Earlier this month, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) acknowledged his party had a problem with certain candidates.
“I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate. Senate races are just different — they’re statewide, candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome,” McConnell said.
But Scott took issue with McConnell’s approach in the Examiner piece without directly naming the Senate GOP leader.
“If you want to trash-talk our candidates to help the Democrats, pipe down,” Scott wrote. “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.”
“Sen. McConnell and I clearly have a strategic disagreement here. … We have great candidates,” Scott added in an interview with Politico.
The difficulties some Republican candidates are having raising money and gaining traction in the polls have prompted questions, including within his party, about Scott’s leadership at the NRSC. Earlier this month, Axios revealed Scott had gone on an “ill-timed” luxury vacation to Italy during the August congressional recess, raising the possibility that someone close to Scott leaked his vacation plans. Scott’s office told the outlet that the senator was celebrating a wedding anniversary with his wife and family.
This row over campaign strategy is not the first instance of intraparty disarray among top Senate Republicans. In March, McConnell sharply rebuked an economic proposal from Scott that called for slashing government services, threatening Social Security, and raising taxes on the poor.
Democrats have since savaged Republican candidates up and down the ballot over the proposal, accusing them of seeking to raise taxes on needy Americans.
“If we’re fortunate enough to have the majority next year, I’ll be the majority leader. I’ll decide, in consultation with my members, what to put on the floor,” McConnell said at a press conference on Capitol Hill when asked about Scott’s proposal.
The public upbraiding was made all the more awkward after Scott, who is part of McConnell’s leadership team and had attended the same press conference, left early in an unusual exit.
The two men have also taken strikingly different approaches to Trump. McConnell rarely discusses the former president and dodges questions about him nearly every chance he gets. Scott, on the other hand, has embraced the former president, using his image to raise funds and bolster his party’s chances in November. Scott is widely seen as a possible 2024 presidential contender with ambitions for higher office.