A portion of the Republican base has been less than thrilled with aspects of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) performance, and now it looks like his continued leadership may soon be challenged in the next term, The Political Insider reported.
Reports indicate that Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has laid the groundwork for a potential effort to replace McConnell as the leader of the Senate Republican caucus.
Leadership challenge on the horizon?
The latest incident to fuel the speculation of a coming battle over Senate Republican leadership was an appearance Sunday by Sen. Scott on NBC News‘ “Meet the Press,” in which Scott declined to rule out a possible challenge against Sen. McConnell’s continued leadership.
Asked if he intended to run to be majority leader if the GOP gained control of the Senate, Scott replied, “I’m not focused on anything except getting a majority Tuesday night.”
Host Chuck Todd pushed back against Scott’s “non-answer,” but the Florida senator simply reiterated that he was solely “focused” on 2022 and wasn’t looking beyond the important midterm elections.
The Hill reported that Sens. Scott and McConnell had already been seemingly feuding since at least March when Scott unilaterally released an 11-point conservative agenda for a prospective Senate Republican majority to pursue that was largely rejected outright or left unsupported by McConnell.
That only deepened the pre-existing divide between the two that is due to the fact that Scott has been a loyal ally to former President Donald Trump while McConnell and the former president, who truly never much cared for each other, are said to be no longer on speaking terms.
Things really came to a head over the summer, though, when McConnell seemed to take a swipe at a handful of Republican Senate nominees supported by Scott’s NRSC by downplaying Republican chances to take control of the Senate with the suggestion that “candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome.”
Scott makes case for real leadership
In response to McConnell’s “candidate quality” remarks, Scott wrote an op-ed for the Washington Examiner that, while not directly naming McConnell, was otherwise clearly intended as a rebuke against the Republican leader.
“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,” Scott said. “Giving anonymous quotes to help the Washington Post or the New York Times write stories trashing Republicans is the same as working with the Democratic National Committee.”
Scott asserted that real leaders either support their team or remain quiet, and added, “Ultimately, though, when you complain and lament that we have “bad candidates,” what you are really saying is that you have contempt for the voters who chose them. Now we are at the heart of the matter. Much of Washington’s chattering class disrespects and secretly (or not so secretly) loathes Republican voters.”
It is unclear how a leadership battle between Scott and McConnell would play out — nor is it clear that the GOP will even have the majority — and both senators appear likely to have lost key allies that they would have counted on for support, as some of the candidates Scott supported did not win their elections and several of McConnell’s establishment backers will retire at the end of the current term.