Summary List PlacementSenate Republican reelection chief Rick Scott is using an unorthodox playbook to reclaim the majority in 2022. It doesn’t involve talking up GOP lawmakers or have anything to do with mapping out what they’d do if they wrest back control of the 50-50 chamber.
Instead, the first-term junior senator from Florida has been incessantly promoting Donald Trump in emails theoretically designed to help GOP candidates win.
“We’re going to take the majority back,” Scott told Insider in an interview at the Capitol where he sidestepped questions about the all-Trump strategy that’s plain as day.
No doubt, the twice impeached former president won’t be on the ballot during the next midterms but he’s still the face of the party. And it’s his megaphone that’s continuously blasted out in messages that the Scott-led National Republican Senatorial Committee uses to communicate with grassroots donors who help fill the GOP’s campaign coffers.
That’s one of the biggest takeaways from an Insider review of 190 campaign emails sent out from April 18 to May 18 that help illustrate the death grip Trump still has on Republicans chastened by his prowess as a fundraiser and political motivator.
Insider examined a month’s worth of the frantic missives to get a sense of how the GOP’s 2022 messaging is shaping up. The NRSC devoted a third of those messages (32%) to hyping up Trump’s attempted return to internet glory.
Highlights from the aggressive outreach include:
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“Are you ignoring us?”
“They’re coming for your money”
“They CANCELLED TRUMP. Are you going to let them get away with it?”
“We’ll let Trump know you prefer censorship.”
Scott has faithfully backed Trump since the summer of 2016 after future delegation-mate Marco Rubio dropped out upon finishing second in the Sunshine State’s Republican presidential primary. That unwavering allegiance, which Scott reaffirmed on January 6 by objecting to the 2020 presidential election results from Pennsylvania’s electors, comes shining through in the mostly Trump-centric emails the NRSC cranks out up to eight times a day.
Three NRSC alums, including two former directors, walked Insider through the responsibilities of running the two-year-long, nationwide-wide electoral marathon. Protecting incumbents, grooming prospects, and custom-tailoring messages to showcase their colleagues’ strengths were some of the shared priorities.
Asked if he’s offered Scott any advice, Sen. Roger Wicker, a Republican of Mississippi who led the NRSC through the 2016 cycle, told Insider he’s “just playing a rank and file role” now that Scott’s in charge.
“He’s a two-term governor of one of the largest states. And he’s got a lot of people around him who have helped him be a winner,” Wicker said of the current chairman. “The best thing we can do is put our candidates in a position to win. And then hope circumstances and issues carry them across.”
Missing from the GOP’s ’22 messaging: Candidates
“The face of the party is each individual race,” Scott recently told the Associated Press. “The party is those people, it’s not one person, it’s not one person’s agenda.”
But his statement contradicts the constant fixation on Trump — who is reportedly harboring fantasies about being “reinstated” before the end of summer — in NRSC’s daily messaging.
In a video message for the NRSC released on June 5, Trump thanks people for their “tremendous” love and affection, and promises: “We’re gonna take back the Senate, take back the House, we’re gonna take back the White House, and sooner than you think. It’s going to be really something special.”
Trump in a fundraising video for the NRSC: “We’re gonna take back the Senate, take back the House, we’re gonna take back the White House – and sooner than you think. It’s going to be really something special…” pic.twitter.com/nAPcc57joj — Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) June 5, 2021
As the man in charge, Scott isn’t trying to clutter up the constant stream of dummy polls and Trump-related merchandise promos with Republican candidates’ bona fides. Insider’s review found no mentions of anything senators are currently working on; the January 6th commission, infrastructure spending, police reform, or past accomplishments by the 15 Republican incumbents on the ballot next year.
Instead, NRSC email blasts focused on hypotheticals like expanding the number of sitting Supreme Court justices, DC statehood, and passage of a “Green New Deal” that progressive Democrats have so far failed to turn into law. And they breathlessly awaited the revenge-seeking former POTUS’ return to whipping up the online masses.
On May 11, a week after Trump launched his now-defunct personal blog, “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” the NRSC trumpeted the online soapbox as a “takedown of Big Tech that those same Big Tech cronies have feared.”
Trump killed the underwhelming project less than a month after its debut, ending an embarrassing workaround that never commanded the kind of attention he got before being booted off social media for inciting the violent January 6 attack on the US Capitol.
Not much else made it through the NRSC filter after ginning up love for Trump’s short-lived blogging career. Railing against “Big Tech” dominated a quarter (26%) of NRSC communications. The only other person garnering double-digit mentions in the NRSC blasts is the current president and 2022/2024 GOP bogeyman Joe Biden, who popped up in 16% of the panicky dispatches.
From there the intensity wanes. Trump-branded gear — t-shirts, koozies, stickers — was mentioned as much as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat (tied at 9%).
Deadline-fueled cash grabs — asking donors for at least $35 a pop within a rapidly closing window (20 minutes/1 hour/before midnight) — worked their way into the mix approximately 8% of the time. Then there are sporadic guest appearances by former and current Republicans like Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, and one-time House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
GOP Sens. Tim Scott of South Carolina, and Rand Paul of Kentucky, are the only two 2022 contenders named in the reviewed emails. And that’s because they guest authored posts bashing Biden and the nation’s top infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci, respectively.
The other 13 Republican senators up for reelection — including John Boozman of Arkansas, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, John Kennedy of Louisiana, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Mike Lee of Utah, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Marco Rubio of Florida, John Thune of South Dakota, and Todd Young of Indiana — and five Republicans retiring at the end of their respective terms aren’t mentioned anywhere.
“Messaging is less about electing someone. It’s more about beating someone,” a former NRSC official told Insider.
Senate Democrats up in 2022 mentioned more than any of their GOP counterparts include: Raphael Warnock of Georgia (three times), Mark Kelly of Arizona (twice), Alex Padilla of California (once), Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire (once), Michael Bennett of Colorado (once), and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada (once).
House Democrats mentioned more than any of the GOP incumbents include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (eight times) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York (once).
‘We’re going to take the majority back’
Rick Scott did not directly explain the reasoning behind adhering to a hyper Trumpy strategy rather than highlighting colleagues or policy goals. And he described a different vision than what he’s presenting.
“We are the party that believes in opportunity, in jobs, school choice. We are pro-law enforcement. We’re not for what the Biden administration is doing with regard to open borders,” he said instead during an interview at the US Capitol. “So that’s what we’re focused on.”
His goal, he added, is “to win” elections.
“We’re going to take the majority back,” Scott told Insider.
Former Sen. George Allen was in Scott’s shoes in 2004, leading the NRSC during the midterm elections while George W. Bush was president. Allen said he had to barnstorm through states from Alaska to Florida in a mad dash to fortify Republican’s fragile majority.
Unlike Scott, whose devotion to Trump appears absolute, Allen had some decisions to make regarding the political albatross of his day. One thing Allen had to take into account while sizing up individual races was how much, if at all, to bring up Bush.
The polarizing 43rd president’s approval ratings had plummeted from the overwhelming support (90%) bestowed upon him immediately after the 9/11 attack to underwater (48%) the week before Election Day.
“You’d want to tie them [the 2004 candidates] to President Bush in states where he was going to do well,” Allen said. In spots where the president was persona non grata, “well, there wasn’t a reason to bring that up.”
Senate Republicans picked up four seats that fall, turning the similarly narrowly-divided chamber into a slightly less stressful 55-45 affair.
Elvina Nawaguna contributed to this story.
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