Jan 31, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Trump helps launch NRSC podcast

Screengrab from Rick Scott's podcast promo

Sen. Rick Scott. Screenshot via "NRSC Red Zone" podcast

The Senate Republicans' campaign and fundraising arm is launching a new podcast — with Donald Trump as its debut guest and donor lure.

Why it matters: It shows how crucial the GOP considers Trump to its chances of taking back the majority.

  • There’s something in it for Trump as well: being interviewed by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, gives him institutional validation at a time of political and legal scrutiny.
  • The guest spot also shows how Republicans still see his brand as a net positive, despite sagging poll numbers, legal investigations and blowback from a weekend speech in which he mused about pardoning Jan. 6 insurrectionists.

Between the lines: Scott's embrace also stands in sharp contrast to the view of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Driving the news: The podcast is titled "NRSC Red Zone" and will focus on conversations with top Republican elected officials, business leaders and other experts to discuss issues ahead of November's midterms.

  • Scott says the name's football connotation was chosen because Republicans "are in the red zone. We've got to punch it in. This is just a few months away from the election."
  • The first episode featuring Trump is about 20 minutes long and will be released this week. The two spend a lot of it comparing Trump’s first year in office with that of President Biden's, according to the NRSC.
  • The content is paid for by the NRSC.

What they're saying: “The 2022 midterms are a critical junction for the future of America, and ‘NRSC Red Zone’ is taking the Republican pitch straight to voters," Scott told Axios.

  • "Voters will hear how Republicans focus on policies that uplift Americans from all walks of life. ... 'NRSC Red Zone' will highlight Republican leaders from around the country and how we’re fighting to win back the Senate majority.”

Go deeper: Scott has long walked the tightrope between defying GOP leadership and McConnell while continuing to court Trump — the party's rainmaker and most influential Republican politician.

  • As Axios first reported in November, Scott warned his Senate Republican colleagues during a closed-door lunch that loyal GOP donors were "furious" with the number of Republicans — including McConnell — who voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
  • And while Scott has been careful not to endorse Republican candidates in their primaries — a practice in keeping with the NRSC's tradition — Trump has waded deliberately into several primary races. He's endowed Kelly Tshibaka, the primary challenger to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
  • Scott told NBC’s “Meet the Press" in November: “I think you’d be foolish not to want and accept Donald Trump’s endorsement, but you’re going to win not because somebody endorses you."
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