National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Rick Scott (Fla.) on Tuesday insisted he was not talking about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) when he lashed out at Republicans for “trash-talking” Senate GOP candidates.
Scott wrote a scathing op-ed in the Washington Examiner on Sept. 1 in which he slammed GOP critics for questioning the quality of Senate candidates. The op-ed was published less than two weeks after McConnell said “candidate quality” could be a reason Republicans won’t capture control of the Senate in November.
But on Tuesday, after meeting face to face with McConnell for the first time since the August recess, Scott said his op-ed was aimed at anonymous GOP sources quoted in media outlets and not at the Senate’s top Republican.
“I said people that do anonymous quotes to the liberal media. … People are doing anonymous quotes and trashing our Republican candidates,” he said. “It’s treasonous to the conservative cause.”
Asked if he was making any reference to McConnell, Scott insisted, “No.”
“My op-ed said these people that are doing anonymous quotes that trash our candidates, that’s not helping, that’s hurting our candidates,” he said.
Scott’s op-ed, however, appeared timed to respond to McConnell’s expressed concerns about the quality of Senate candidates.
The Senate Republican leader told an audience in Florence, Ky., last month that he thought Republicans are more likely to win back the House than the Senate and cited “candidate quality” as highly important in Senate races.
“I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate. Senate races are just different — they’re statewide, candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome,” McConnell said in mid-August.
Scott declined to say whether he and McConnell had talked about how to resolve their public spat before meeting with the rest of the GOP leadership team in the Capitol on Tuesday afternoon.
“I don’t talk about any private conversations,” he told reporters.
But he said he and the GOP leader are unified in wanting to wrest control of the upper chamber away from Democrats.
“I think Leader McConnell and I are in the same position. We want to win the races,” he said.
Scott, however, told Politico in an interview published on Sept. 1 that he and McConnell “clearly have a strategic disagreement” over just how strong the Senate Republican candidates are heading into the fall.
“Sen. McConnell and I clearly have a strategic disagreement here. … We have great candidates,” he said last week. “He wants to do the same thing I want to do: I want to get a majority. And I think it’s important that we’re all cheerleaders for our candidates.”