Senator Rick Scott will challenge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for control of GOP leadership in the upper chamber, a move that comes days after Mr McConnell’s caucus failed to unseat a 50-vote Democratic majority in the midterm elections.
Mr McConnell held a press conference on Tuesday after a three-hour GOP conference meeting during which Mr Scott unloaded on the minority leader for what he depicted as a failure of leadership and a lack of direction for the caucus.
At that press conference, the Senate GOP leader took the opportunity to hammer the work of Mr Scott and the National Republican Senatorial Committee and blame a poor quality of Senate candidates for the party’s failure to take the chamber in Tuesday’d midterms.
Calling it “pretty obvious” what had taken place, Mr McConnell explained: “We underperformed among independents and moderates because their impression of many of the people in our party in leadership roles is that they are involved in chaos, negativity, excessive attacks, and it frightened independent and moderate Republican voters.”
That remark could be taken as a clear shot at Pennsylvania GOP Senate candidate Dr Mehmet Oz, whose campaign was criticised for vicious attacks against the now-victorious Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman regarding his recovery from a stroke.
Mr Scott, who only joined the Senate in 2019, announced his plans to mount a bid for leadership of the caucus on Tuesday at the Senate GOP’s closed-door meeting; multiple news outlets confirmed the development. Though he is a newcomer to the Senate, he will likely have the backing of Donald Trump in his bid to take over the GOP caucus given Mr Trump’s strong dislike of Mr McConnell over the latter’s refusal to support his bid to overturn the 2020 election.
Mr Scott currently leads the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, a position that will likely leave him open to attacks from other Republican senators on the issue of why the GOP failed to take the upper chamber this cycle. Kevin Cramer, a Republican senator from North Dakota, made that argument to reporters on Tuesday as Mr Scott announced his bid.
“If you’re gonna assess blame for election losses, I don’t know how you trade in the leader for the gentleman at the [National Republican Senatorial Committee],” Mr Cramer quipped to HuffPost.
Mr McConnell, meanwhile, seemed confident in his path to being reelected minority leader.
“I have the votes. I will be elected. The only issue is whether we do it sooner or later,” he told reporters at a press conference, adding that the vote “may or may not” happen on Wednesday.