Rick Scott and McConnell battle for GOP leader as senators simmer after midterms: ‘A lot of frustration’


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rick Scott are set to square off on Wednesday to determine who will be the party’s leader in the Senate – in a battle that could significantly shape the party’s direction going into 2024.

Scott, R-Fla., announced his run Tuesday during a marathon three-hour conference meeting, which senators said included a major airing of frustration after a weak midterm performance by Senate Republicans. Scott has presented himself as the candidate for change – including offering a more aggressive political agenda to voters.

“I am writing to you today because I believe it is time for the Senate Republican Conference to be much bolder and more decisive than we have been in the past. We need to start saying what we stand for, not just what we’re against,” he added. Scott said in a letter to GOP colleagues on Tuesday. “I don’t believe we can just keep saying Democrats are radical, which they are. Republican voters expect and deserve to know about our plan to promote and advance conservative values.”

He added: “If you just want to stick with the status quo, don’t vote for me.”

RICK SCOTT ANNOUNCES PLAN TO TAKE OFF MITCH MCCONNELL AS TOP REPUBLICAN IN SENATE

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, that he has the votes to remain the leader of the GOP in the Senate.
(Bloomberg)

Scott is also more closely allied with former President Donald Trump than McConnell, whose ouster Trump continues to advocate.

McConnell, meanwhile, assured reporters Tuesday night that he was not concerned about a challenge from Scott. He also acknowledged calls from several senators to delay leadership elections, scheduled for Wednesday morning.

“I have the votes. I will be elected,” McConnell said. “The only question is whether we will do it sooner or later. And we will probably have another discussion about it.”

Scott’s candidacy comes after he and several other senators publicly called for a postponement of leadership elections following the midterm elections. Some have argued there needs to be a serious reassessment of party leadership after midterms, while others have cited Georgia’s undecided runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., and Republican Herschel Walker.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Tuesday he would move a motion at Wednesday’s meeting to delay the election. It would take a majority of the conference to pass.

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., above, challenges Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for the GOP leadership in the Senate.

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., above, challenges Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for the GOP leadership in the Senate.
(Joseph A. Wulfsohn/Fox News Digital)

The senses. Lindsey Graham, RS.C., and Mike Braun, R-Ind., who both delayed the election, said many senators intervened in Tuesday’s tense meeting.

MITCH MCCONNELL CHALLENGED FOR GOP SENATE LEADERSHIP BY RICK SCOTT

“A lot of frustration, a lot of talking,” Graham said as he left the meeting.

“I have a disposition that’s not inherently that way. A few that might normally have become that way could have become that way, but that’s a good discussion,” Braun said.

Braun added that about 20 people spoke at the meeting, and more than half of them insisted on “something different.”

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., another senator who supports delaying the election, said McConnell and Scott debated outside the room after Scott announced his candidacy for leader.

“Mitch responded to that, and they went back and forth, and that was good,” Hawley said. “It was frank.

CONSERVATIVE GROUPS PUSH SENATE TO DELAY LEADERSHIP ELECTIONS AS FRUSTRATION WITH MCCONNELL GROWS

Meanwhile, McConnell’s allies, including Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, said they expect leadership elections to be held on Wednesday.

“We’re going to vote again tomorrow. I think it’s important to put these leadership elections behind us, so we can focus on unity and winning the runoff,” Cornyn said. “I think he will [stay on]. … He’s ready to take the slingshots and the arrows.”

Others pushed back on Scott’s run, citing his disappointing election results while leading the Republican National Senate Committee.

“Every Republican has been attacked for their plan to cut Social Security and Medicare,” GOP strategist and former McConnell staffer John Ashbrook said in a tweet. “Now it’s doubling down. Nobody likes that more than Democrats.”

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McConnell also has a significant cushion because GOP Senate leadership elections only require the support of a simple conference majority. This is in contrast with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, who can only lose a handful of GOP votes and still become Speaker of the House, because that position requires a majority of the full chamber.

Even Scott’s allies aren’t rushing to predict victory. Senator Ron Johnson. R-Wis., who said he would nominate Scott, when asked if Scott could beat McConnell, replied that maybe he could, “if it was delayed – then he could actually talk to his colleagues.”

Fox News’ Caroline McKee and Chad Pergram contributed to this report.


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