Senate

Democrats embrace Rick Scott as midterm boogeyman

Democrats have a new boogeyman as they head into a historically tough midterm election: First-term GOP Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.). 

Scott, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), is emerging as a staple of Democrats’ midterm message, with the party eager to try to use a policy agenda he released earlier this year — which sparked tension among Senate Republicans — against his party.

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Scott’s Democratic campaign counterpart, said Democrats would keep Scott’s plan in focus into November as they work to save their majority in the 50-50 Senate.

“It’s a Republican plan. It’s a Republican plan that folks should hear. … It’s a Republican plan put out by the chairperson of the Republican campaign committee. So it’s certainly an issue that needs to be raised,” Peters said in a brief interview. 

Democrats launched their latest front in trying to make sure voters are aware of Scott’s plan this week. 

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), which Peters heads, went up with billboards featuring Scott — as well as Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Ron Johnson (Wis.), both of whom are up for reelection — saying “Senate Republicans’ Plan: Raise Your Taxes.”

It’s the latest in a string of smaller buys targeting Scott’s plan. 

Late last month, the DSCC launched a digital ad featuring part of an interview where Scott discussed his plan. The six-figure ad targeted older voters in states critical to the battle for the Senate: Arizona, Georgia, New Hampshire, Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida.

A five-figure radio ad launched by the DSCC last month spring-boarded off Scott’s plan, without directly mentioning the Florida Republican, with a narrator saying, “this just in, Republicans have released their plan if they win the Senate: It’s to raise taxes on over 50 percent of Americans.” The group’s announcement of the ads linked to a Washington Post analysis on Scott’s plan. 

The focus on Scott is also coming from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which released a digital ad this week targeting Google searches for tax services with Monday’s tax filing deadline. The ad links to a website, GOPtaxhikes.com, run by the DSCC that “breaks down who could pay more under NRSC Chair Rick Scott and Republicans’ tax plan,” according to the DNC’s announcement on the ad. 

Last week, Georgia Democrats also used an appearance by Scott in the state, where first-term Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) is running for a full six-year term, to link Georgia Republicans to Scott and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), himself a long running Democratic boogeyman and self-proclaimed “grim reaper” of progressive policies. McConnell has distanced himself from some of the most well-known pieces of Scott’s plan. 

“We can only assume that Georgia Republicans are in full support of Moscow Mitch, Rick Scott, and this quest to tax people. Even if you get an earned income tax credit check, even if you get a child tax credit – they want to take that away. They want to do away with Social Security and Medicare within five years. We just can’t allow that to happen,” said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.). 

A poll conducted on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee found that a majority of battleground state voters would be less likely to support Republicans if the GOP moved to end Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. 

Sixty-five percent of respondents said they would be less likely to support the GOP “If Senate Republicans have a new plan that would end Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in five years,” according to the poll, which was conducted by Blue Rose Research.

Scott’s plan doesn’t explicitly call for ending those programs. But Democrats have seized on two pieces of the plan as endorsing it in practice:  One section of Scott’s 11-point plan says that “All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount,” fueling Democrats’ tax attacks. 

Another part states that, “All federal legislation sunsets in 5 years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.”

Some Senate Republicans beyond McConnell have distanced themselves from the plan, which Scott has stressed is meant to speak only for himself and not the NRSC or Senate Republicans broadly. 

Members of Senate GOP leadership warned Scott during a meeting in February that he was opening members up to Democratic attacks.

“We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years,” McConnell told reporters shortly after Scott released his plan. 

Democrats, however, dismiss Scott’s attempt to separate his agenda from his work as NRSC chairman. 

“It’s the Republican plan,” Peters said, asked about Scott saying it only speaks for his agenda and not the campaign arm or the party. 

Democrats are facing their own political headwinds heading into November, with voters concerned about record inflation. Democrats are also in the middle of their own intraparty fight over President Biden’s decision to lift a Trump-era immigration policy, which Republicans are seizing on as a campaign issue. 

Some GOP candidates have also embraced parts of the plan — statements that haven’t escaped Democrats’ notice. And Scott hasn’t shied away from touting his agenda. A Morning Consult-Politico survey also found that certain pieces of it are popular, including term limits, prioritizing domestic supply and energy chains and requiring voters to show an ID, among other provisions.

Even as Senate Democrats appeared to have spent in the low six figures targeting either Scott or Senate Republicans over his plan, Scott has spent more money touting it. Scott went up with national ads shortly after the plan’s release that a Scott spokesperson told The Hill was a seven figure buy. 

“I put out some policy ideas. I’m going to keep working on this. There’s going to be things people agree with and don’t agree with. There’s going to be, you know, changes we’ll make as people give us their thoughts, but I want to have a conversation about what we do,” Scott told The Hill in an interview last month.

“This is what Rick Scott believes in, it’s not the Republican plan. I was very clear that it’s Rick Scott’s policy ideas. It’s nobody else’s policy ideas,” he added. 

Tags 2022 midterms DSCC Florida Gary Peters Medicare Rick Scott Rick Scott Social Security

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