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Sen. Rick Scott defended his stewardship of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm Wednesday, saying he’s been right not to try to steer GOP primaries toward preferred candidates.
The Florida Republican has taken a hands-off approach so far, spending no money to help ensure the party nominates the most electable candidates as it attempts to take the majority — even as Democratic-aligned outside groups have run ads attempting to influence at least one GOP primary.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast with reporters that voters don’t “want Washington to pick who the candidates are” and that all Republicans have a good chance to win in a brutal political climate for Democrats. With President Joe Biden’s approval rating hovering around 40% — well below Barack Obama’s standing in 2010 — Scott predicted Republicans will pick up at least four Senate seats now held by Democrats in November, with the party needing a net gain of only one.
“This is a referendum on Biden,” Scott said. “And he’s in worse shape than Obama was at this time in the first term.”
But the quality of the party’s candidates, and how that balances with the midterm environment, will face several big tests.
In one top pickup opportunity, Georgia Republicans nominated Herschel Walker, a football legend who’s faced allegations of domestic violence and other issues in his personal life. Scott said Walker will win because Georgia “is still a Republican state” and the candidate’s been honest about his problems.
In what should be a safe Republican open-seat race, Scott dismissed concerns that an August primary victory by former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R), who resigned amid scandal and a criminal investigation that was later dropped, would give Democrats a chance to flip it.
“There’s no reason to believe we won’t win Missouri, whoever the nominee is,” Scott said.
Greitens drew attention recently for an online video showing him holding a rifle and saying he’s going “RINO hunting” — referring to an acronym for Republicans in Name Only. Scott said he didn’t endorse any messages promoting violence.
In Colorado, a potential Republican target, shadowy groups have spent millions of dollars on TV ads and mailings to help Ron Hanks, who’s campaigned mainly on false allegations about the 2020 election. Scott said the NRSC joined Joe O’Dea, a businessman considered more moderate than Hanks, in complaining about election law violations, but the committee remains neutral in next week’s primary.
Democrats, who hold the edge in the 50-50 Senate because of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote, are aiming to pick up a few seats as well, while helping their most vulnerable incumbents get re-elected.
“Republicans have put forward a roster of deeply flawed Senate candidates that are running on an unpopular agenda of tax hikes, ending Social Security and Medicare, and taking away women’s rights to make our own health care decisions — and that’s exactly why voters will reject them in November,” said Nora Keefe, spokesperson for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org