Aug 23, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Rick Scott's ill-timed Italian vacation

Rick Scott
Photo: Anna Rose Layden/Getty Image

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) is spending part of his congressional recess on a luxury yacht in Italy with his family after criticizing President Biden for vacationing in Delaware, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Scott is the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, whose job is to win back a GOP majority in the upper chamber. Republicans' prospects for winning back the Senate have been worsening over the course of the summer, according to polling and analysis.

  • Scott is already under fire for his management of the committee.
  • Vacationing in Europe while Republicans face cash problems and rough headlines about their midterm chances could further hurt his standing with his GOP colleagues.

The big picture: Scott has been taking heat from Republican detractors who have criticized his job of recruiting strong candidates and managing the committee's spending this cycle.

  • Republican candidates are underperforming across the Senate landscape. Trump-endorsed nominees are trailing in must-win states like Pennsylvania and Arizona. A top Republican super PAC was forced to spend $28 million backing author J.D. Vance's campaign in GOP-friendly Ohio.

What they're saying: NRSC spokesman Chris Hartline did not respond to requests for comment on Monday night after Axios spoke with three sources familiar with aspects of Scott’s itinerary.

  • Upon learning of Axios' plans to publish, he said: "Sen. Scott took a couple days to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife and family — a trip that was planned more than a year ago."

Driving the news: Scott mocked President Biden on Monday for vacationing in Delaware instead of working at the White House.

Between the lines: Scott has made unconventional decisions running the committee. The NRSC spent over $40 million early in the cycle, in part because many candidates have struggled to pay for television ads without help from outside organizations, draining the party of resources for the home stretch.

  • The committee canceled bookings in Pennsylvania, Arizona and Wisconsin last week, according to the Washington Post, forfeiting the cheaper rates that came from booking early.
  • Several of the key battleground areas Republicans need to spend in — Phoenix, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Philadelphia — are top media markets and expensive for ad buys.
  • The NRSC said the move was a result of the campaign seeking to stretch its money as far as possible, including by shifting funds around to do more "hybrid ads" — joint ads paid for by the candidate and the Senate GOP campaign arm.
  • That decision reduces the party's advertising rates, but it also restricts the type of messages the ads can feature.

Scott has taken a hands-off approach to Republican primaries, not favoring any candidates in open contests.

  • Both Scott and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell were unable to recruit two popular governors — Arizona's Doug Ducey and New Hampshire's Chris Sununu — who would have faced better odds of flipping Democratic-held seats.

By the numbers: At the end of July, the NRSC reported just $23.2 million cash-on-hand. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee reported $54.1 million in its account, more than double the GOP amount.

  • "We’ve spent more than $40 million on TV while the DSCC has spent $2 million. If you spend money, you have less of it," Hartline told Axios.

Zoom out: If House Republicans coast to victory while Senate Republicans fail to pick up the one seat necessary to win a majority, Scott is poised to be the GOP’s fall guy. It would be a rare setback for the Florida politician, who has beaten long odds before and boasts an undefeated record in his own campaigns.

Andrew Solender contributed reporting.

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