Sen. Rick Scott of Florida—a former governor, current campaign chief of the Senate GOP, and the richest member of Congress—deems himself to be a maverick who's taking on the establishment.
"I’m always going to be perceived as an outsider,” Scott, a de facto insider, told the AP in an interview. “I’m going to keep doing what I believe in whether everybody agrees with me or not.”
Despite his money, power, and access, Scott has persuaded himself that he's a renegade taking politics by the horns. Maybe it's his alien-esque charisma or perhaps some lingering playground trauma, but whatever the case, Scott has cast himself as an unlikely protagonist akin to the lauded general who helped the Union secure victory in the nation's bloodiest war.
“I think of myself more like [Ulysses S.] Grant taking Vicksburg," he says of the notoriously brutal Civil War campaign that ultimately set Union troops on a path to triumph.
Sure, the analogy is laughable, but the enemy Scott is targeting appears to be establishment Republicans and specifically Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who got a bit snippy last month when Scott unilaterally released a GOP platform laying out his vision of governance.
Among other things, that platform includes raising taxes on working families by more than $1 trillion over the next decade, which landed like a lead balloon with McConnell.
Listen and subscribe to Daily Kos' The Brief podcast with Markos Moulitsas and Kerry Eleveld
Asked about Scott's 11-point plan to "rescue America," McConnell offered, “If we’re fortunate enough to have the majority next year, I’ll be the majority leader. I’ll decide in consultation with my members what to put on the floor.”
Before Scott's advance, McConnell had originally planned to withhold any and all information from voters about what Republicans might do with their majority.
But what has become crystal clear is that Scott isn't just offering an agenda, he's gunning to position himself for McConnell's job if he chooses to run for it. According to the AP, Scott's "leaving open the possibility" of taking on McConnell for Senate majority leader if Republicans retake the upper chamber in November. In truth, it's a backup plan of sorts. Scott's real end game has long been to run for president. But if circumstances don't permit in 2024, being Senate GOP leader might make a nice consolation prize in the near term.
Naturally, Trump, who harbors a white-hot hate for McConnell, is nudging Scott in that direction, according to the AP.
But McConnell, who once enjoyed a nearly impenetrable grip on his leadership post (if not exactly the entire caucus), has a new headache.
Scott's tenure running the GOP Senate's midterm effort has strengthened his donor network—which has always been McConnell’s superpower. Scott is very publicly defying McConnell by releasing and continuing to promote his very telling agenda. And Scott is openly courting relationships with his more extreme counterparts in the lower chamber, where House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy explicitly backs Scott's effort to let voters know exactly what Republicans plan to do with a congressional majority—like raising taxes on tens of millions of working Americans rather than millionaires and billionaires.
“I think elections are important. But I think it’s more than important than just running against another party to tell the American public what you will do,” said McCarthy, who has been working on the House GOP's yet-to-be-released "Commitment to America" platform.
But by and large, Scott's plan has divided the Senate caucus and provided Democrats with a lot of ammunition for the midterms. The fact that he's a thorn in McConnell's side is just icing on the cake.