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Opinion How Rick Scott crashed and burned twice in one year

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., walks to the Senate subway after voting on the same-sex marriage bill on Wednesday in Washington. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

As chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) had one job: win the Senate majority. Not only did he fail, but he did so in spectacular fashion — through calamitous mismanagement of the NRSC that left Republican candidates under fire without air cover in the final critical months of the midterm elections.

Now Scott is trying to deflect blame for the GOP’s disastrous showing. So, it’s worth reviewing the record of his catastrophic tenure at the helm of the GOP’s Senate campaign arm.

According to the New York Times, by July of this year, Scott’s NRSC had raised $181.5 million — a substantial war chest. But before the fall campaign even got underway, the newspaper reported, he had blown through 95 percent of the money — wasting most of it on consultants, self-promotion and a failed digital fundraising scheme that left the NRSC’s coffers virtually empty. He entered the homestretch with just $23.2 million cash on hand — less than half of what the Democratic senatorial committee had on hand to pummel GOP contenders.

As a result, the NRSC had to cancel $13.5 million in ad buys in August in the critical swing states of Pennsylvania ($7.5 million), Arizona ($3.5 million), Wisconsin ($2.5 million) and Nevada ($1.5 million). Politico reported at the time that “the scale of these cuts is unprecedented.”

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And what was Scott doing in August, while his committee was in crisis? According to Axios, he was on vacation in Italy aboard a luxury yacht.

Read a letter in response to this piece.

You can’t make it up.

Scott needed to take out $13 million in loans in September just to cover the committee’s operating expenses. He was able to spend just more than $548,534 on three independent expenditures in the entire month of October. The incompetence is stunning.

Indeed, Scott spent so much time and money promoting himself at the expense of GOP candidates that people began calling the NRSC the “National Rick Scott Committee.” The Post reported that Scott had “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.”

After I pointed out on Fox News on Election Day that Scott had burned through most of his money by August, Scott followed me on air and was asked by host Martha MacCallum for his response. He said he did the opposite of what his predecessor did two years ago, when Republicans failed to define now-Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.) early on. “I told people … we’re going to invest and define our opponents early,” adding that because they spent money doing so, “we’re in the hunt … to pick up half of the Democrats’ seats right now” — predicting Republicans would win Georgia, Nevada, Arizona, New Hampshire, possibly Washington and Colorado. Instead, he lost a GOP-held seat in Pennsylvania.

As for criticizing previous NRSC leaders, this is laughable. His NRSC is the first in recent memory to raise less and spend less than its predecessor. In 2020, under Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), the NRSC spent $120 million on independent expenditures on behalf of candidates, while Scott’s NRSC spent a grand total of just $33 million. In 2020, the committee spent $18 million on state-party ground activities, while Scott’s NRSC spent about $6 million.

Scott inherited a cash-positive committee with more cash on hand ($14.4 million) than debt on the books ($9 million). But as of the latest Federal Election Commission filings, Scott is on track to leave incoming chairman Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) $6.3 million in the red, with less cash and more than twice as much debt ($20 million).

Because of Scott’s ineptitude, it fell to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to rescue the GOP candidates abandoned by the NRSC. McConnell-aligned super PACs invested a whopping $240.7 million in key Senate races, including $119.6 million in three states where Scott’s NRSC pulled scheduled TV ads: Pennsylvania ($56.7 million), Nevada ($25.5 million) and North Carolina ($37.4 million). McConnell-aligned PACs also spent $16.3 million in New Hampshire trying to rescue pro-Trump candidate Dan Bolduc, staying on the air for 17 days after the NRSC pulled out of the race, before finally withdrawing as well. McConnell also spent $32.2 million in Ohio saving J.D. Vance’s struggling campaign and $38 million in Georgia to get Herschel Walker into a Senate runoff — which is the only reason Republicans have a chance of emerging from this cycle without a diminished Senate minority.

Despite his ruinous record, Scott had the chutzpah to challenge McConnell for the job of Senate Republican leader. The captain of the Titanic actually thought he deserved a promotion.

Not surprisingly, his bid failed. The fact he even tried shows a pitiful lack of self-awareness. As Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) put it, Scott apparently wanted “a chance to crash and burn twice in the same year.”

And who nominated Scott for his ill-fated challenge to McConnell? None other than Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who survived by a razor-thin 26,449-vote majority only thanks to the $24.7 million McConnell spent rescuing his floundering campaign. Talk about an ingrate.

Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) have called for an independent review of the NRSC’s expenditures this election cycle. It can’t come soon enough. Senators have a right to know how Scott wasted more than $180 million. In his letter announcing his now-failed bid for leader, Scott declared “no one person responsible for our party’s performance across the country.” That might be true. But no one person did more to ensure that poor performance than Rick Scott.