Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) campaigned for the chairmanship of the NRSC, thinking that the incumbent president's party generally loses 3-6 seats in the Senate, and as chairman of the NRSC, he could take credit for that, become Senate majority leader, and then use that as a stepping stone to the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. Brilliant plan. What could go wrong?
Well, sometimes the best laid plans of rodents and people somehow work out differently than expected. Now the best case for the Senate Republicans is that nothing changed, still a 50-50 Senate. The worst case is they lose a seat. Some Republicans are not too happy about this and are looking for a scapegoat. The obvious scapegoat—Donald Trump—is too dangerous to tackle, so they are looking for a weaker one. Scott has real potential here.
At a tense 3-hour lunch meeting of the Senate Republican caucus on Tuesday, Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) asked for an impartial review of how the NRSC spent its money. Before Scott took over, there were stories about how previous staffers had been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in improper bonuses. Scott said he quickly dealt with that after he took charge. Maybe there was something like that this time, but that's small potatoes and doesn't explain why the Democrats held the Senate.
The NRSC chairman's job is to raise money for Republican Senate candidates. Scott did that extremely well. He raised and spent $235 million. If Blackburn and Tillis want to know how much went to each race, Scott (or an outside auditor) can tell them. So what? Maybe he spent $30 million on Mehmet Oz. Maybe he spent $50 million. Do Blackburn and Tillis think that if he had spent $70 million Oz would have won? Probably not, because as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) helpfully pointed out, the problem was "candidate quality," not money. In hindsight, Blackburn and Tillis could say: "You should have spent less on Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and more on Oz" but if Scott had done that, maybe Johnson would have lost.
A spokesman for the NRSC, Chris Hartline, pointed out that the NRSC had to file financial reports with the FEC every month, so if the senators had been genuinely interested, they could have consulted the reports and seen where the money went. In retrospect, maybe they could now figure out how it could have been spent better, but in real time, Scott didn't know which races were the most in play. So an audit will show where the money went and Blackburn and Tillis can blare: "You should have spent more on X and less on Y." But that won't explain why the Republicans lost. It wasn't because they didn't have enough money. They had money coming out the wazoo. They lost because they had terrible candidates foisted upon them by Donald Trump. They are just desperately looking for someone else to blame and Scott is in the wrong place at the wrong time. (V)