Updated Nov 15, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Rick Scott to challenge Mitch McConnell for Senate GOP leader

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) stands behind Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) at a Senate GOP leadership news conference. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) announced at a closed-door conference lunch on Tuesday that he plans to challenge Mitch McConnell for Senate GOP leader, multiple people have told Axios.

Why it matters: The announcement came as Senate Republicans were meeting to examine their underwhelming performance in the midterm elections, during which they failed to gain enough seats to take back a majority in the chamber.

  • Scott's spokesperson McKinley Lewis and two other sources familiar with the announcement confirmed the plan to Axios.
  • Scott, chairman of Senate Republicans' campaign arm and a member of Senate Republican leadership, has openly feuded with McConnell for months over differing strategies for the midterm elections.
  • Scott is also one of several conservative senators who have called on McConnell to delay the Senate GOP's leadership elections until after the Georgia runoff on Dec. 6.

Between the lines: Senate Republicans are looking for whom to blame after losing their opportunity to reclaim power.

  • Despite the challenge, McConnell has repeatedly maintained he's confident he has the votes to be re-elected as leader.

The Trump factor: Former President Trump, meanwhile, has been pushing Scott to run against McConnell, and has tried to make McConnell the fall guy for the Republicans' inability to regain the majority.

  • Trump, who plans to announce Tuesday night his plans to run for president in 2024, is expected to lean hard on his Senate allies to back Scott over McConnell.

Yes, but: Trump's sway has noticeably faltered since last Tuesday's elections, with many top Republicans distancing themselves from the former president after several key GOP candidates hand-selected by Trump lost.

What he's saying: In a letter to his Senate Republican colleagues, Scott wrote:

  • "I’m writing to you today because I believe it’s time for the Senate Republican Conference to be far more bold and resolute than we have been in the past. We must start saying what we are for, not just what we are against."
  • "There is a Republican Party that is alive and well in communities across America. It is time there is one in Washington, D.C., too. That is why I am running to be Republican Leader."

Meanwhile, McConnell said Tuesday: "I think it's pretty obvious we may or may not be voting tomorrow," adding: "I have the votes. I will be elected. The only issue is whether we do it sooner or later."

The backdrop: Scott's decision earlier this year to release a multipoint Republican agenda that featured new taxes infuriated McConnell, who swiftly publicly rejected it. The plan ultimately provided extensive attack fodder that President Biden leveraged in support of his party.

  • McConnell, meanwhile, has long believed in focusing on Democrats' shortcomings during elections and opposed putting out a legislative plan ahead of last week's midterms.
  • Scott is now using that decision as a key tenet of why he should be made leader over McConnell.

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Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from Mitch McConnell.

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