Even the guy in charge of electing Republicans can't defend GOP Senate candidates
As Senate Dems notched a major legislative win, Rick Scott struggled to answer basic questions about Herschel Walker and Blake Masters.
With Dems in disarray, inflation on the rise, and President Biden’s approval ratings at Trumpian levels, Republicans conducted themselves for most of this year as though they could nominate sentient MAGA hats and still win seats this November. The tide, however, has started to turn.
Sunday’s Senate passage of the Inflation Reduction Act caps off a summer where slim Democratic majorities in Congress managed to do something about big issues ranging from climate to gun violence to health care. On the economic front, Friday’s jobs report revealed a job market that’s historically strong, even if inflation remains a problem. Meanwhile, the Trump-packed Supreme Court’s move to end federal abortion rights highlighted the cruelty at the heart of the GOP’s agenda and galvanized voters against it.
Put it all together and for the first time all year, Democrats in recent days pulled ahead of Republicans on the generic congressional ballot. And on Sunday, Rick Scott, the guy in charge of getting Republicans elected to the Senate as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, seemed to be feeling the pressure.
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Scott’s task for the midterms is complicated by the fact that instead of nominating seasoned and serious candidates for Senate seats they hope to pick up, Republican voters have opted for Trump favorites such as Herschel Walker, Blake Masters, and Dr. Oz. These guys can get by as long as all they have to do is yell about Hunter Biden and talk about how terrible everything is, and that might’ve been enough when Dems seemed to be sleepwalking to a midterm drubbing. But Scott’s interview on Face the Nation indicated that even he can’t make a positive case for his candidates.
“In a local radio interview in July you talked a lot about your business as an executive, and you said ‘we should start electing people that we would hire,’” host Margaret Brennan began. She then reminded him of just a couple of the reasons why voters should be leery of hiring Walker and Masters. Here’s a transcript of the rest of her question.
Hershel Walker, Republican Senate candidate has lied about the number of children he has, about his business dealings. His ex-wife said he held a gun to her head and said, “I’m going to blow your effin’ brains out.” In Arizona, the candidate Blake Masters called the Unabomber “an underrated thinker,” he said that al-Qaeda doesn’t actually pose a substantial threat to Americans. I mean, I’ve got a list of candidates here who have said some pretty troubling things. Would you hire these people to work for you?
Scott responded with a word salad.
“Well, you go through each person, but I’m not the one doing it — the voters of those states are doing it,” he said, prompting Brennan to remind him that “you’re trying to help Senate Republicans and lead them to victory. These are your candidates.”
After some more hemming and hawing, Scott eventually proclaimed that “this election is gonna be about Joe Biden.”
Brennan, however, reminded Scott that if people like Walker and Masters applied for job at his company, “these things would come up as red flags to HR.”
The whole exchange is worth a watch:
Of course, it’s not exactly breaking news at this point that Walker is a serial liar with a checkered personal life containing credible allegations of abuse. We’ve also known for a long while that Masters is a big lie-endorsing conspiracy theorist who has won the fervent support of literal Nazis. But this baggage will become an even bigger problem if their Democratic opponents (Raphael Warnock and Mark Kelly, respectively) can use their recent legislative successes to change the tenor of their races. Scott’s interview with Brennan illustrated how poorly these fringe Senate GOP candidates play outside the Fox News propaganda ecosystem — an ecosystem that’s vital in a Republican primary, but less so in a general contest.
Scott, of course, has his own reasons for wanting to make the midterms more about Joe Biden and less about what Republicans would do in power. As I wrote about in February, he kicked off the year by releasing “An 11 Point Plan to Rescue America” that he hoped would serve as a Contract with America-like blueprint for Republican candidates in 2022. The only problem is that among its few concrete policy proposals are tax increases for the roughly 61 percent of Americans who don’t pay income taxes and sunsetting Social Security, Medicare, the Civil Rights Act, and all other federal legislation every five years. Good luck selling voters that that’s in their interests. As you’d expect, Scott’s plan immediately found its way into Democratic attack ads.
Brennan isn’t known as an especially tough interviewer, but the above exchange wasn’t the only time she got the best of Scott. Earlier during the interview, Scott explained that he opposes the Inflation Reduction Act because “this is a $280 billion cut in Medicare.” But, as Brennan pointed out, he was dishonestly conflating cutting the cost of Medicare — something the bill actually does — with cutting benefits, when in fact the bill does the opposite.
Brennan didn’t go as hard on Scott as she could’ve, however. She didn’t mention that during his private sector days, Scott was involved in what was then the largest Medicare fraud in history.
Part of the problem is Trump’s commitment to the big lie
As I alluded to earlier, one of the reasons Republicans are saddled with such terrible candidates is because they’re the ones who have been endorsed by Trump, and Trump only endorses candidates who adhere to his big lie. As a result, Republicans who believe free and fair elections are still worth having are getting purged from the party.
That’s a very bad thing for our democracy, but it’s also creating problems within the GOP.
Case in point was the speech Trump delivered Friday night at a rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Trump was there in large part to rail against Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) and endorse Vos’s opponent, Adam Steen, in next Tuesday’s primary. And Trump made very clear that reason he opposes Vos is because Vos refuses at this late date to use his power to decertify Biden’s 2020 victory over him in Wisconsin.