9/17/22 NRSC Chair, Sen. Rick Scott, on the GOP’s odds of flipping the senate

Published: Sep. 17, 2022 at 10:59 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Washington, DC – Gray Television White House correspondent and senior national editor Jon Decker interviewed Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), for the second episode of Gray TV’s Midterm Election Series, “Election 2022 Just the Facts,” airing Saturday, September 17 and Sunday, September 18.

Sen. Scott told Decker he was “100% certain” that Republicans would take the Senate in the midterms.

On why his prediction of GOP Senate chances differed from Leader Mitch McConnell’s, Scott said: “Just look at our candidates. I mean, look at them … These guys have great backgrounds. And they’re working hard. They’re running good races.”

When asked why the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has double the money the NRSC does, Scott answered: “Because we did the right thing. I tell people … what you have to do to win races, you can’t wait to define your opponent. So we invested early.”

On whether former President Donald Trump has given enough money to GOP Senate candidates, Scott said: “I want everybody that has any money to give us more money.”

And when questioned about Sen. Lindsay Graham’s abortion ban bill and whether legislation should remain on the state level or be a federal issue, Scott answered: “That’s a decision every senator’s going to get to make.”

Excerpts are below.

Sen. Rick Scott Highlights

On GOP Senate chances

Jon Decker, Gray TV White House Correspondent

Give me a sense about your optimism on a scale of one to 10, 10 being absolute certainty – how certain are you that Republicans will retake the Senate?

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

“I’m 100% certain we’ll take the Senate. Now the question is, I think we’re at 52+ so we’ll see. I think we’re clearly going to be able to defend Ron Johnson’s lead. Now, you saw the polls yesterday. He’s up four. Even the Democrat poll, Marquette there has him up one. Doc Oz has cut the lead in half in Pennsylvania. So I think if people get to know Fetterman, we’re going to win there. If you look at North Carolina, Budd’s up showing the polls three. Then Herschel Walker’s already up in each of the two latest polls, three. And Adam Laxalt’s up. So I think that’s our 52, plus I think we’ve got a great opportunity in Arizona, Colorado, Washington, New Hampshire. So I think we’re going to have a breakthrough.

Jon Decker, Gray TV White House Correspondent

Mitch McConnell … does not share your optimism. Just a few weeks ago in Kentucky, he said, ‘I think there’s probably a greater likelihood that the House flips than the Senate.’ Why do you have a different viewpoint than your leader?

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

Just look at our candidates. I mean, look at them. I mean you’ve got Mehmet Oz, a world-renowned heart surgeon, the top healthcare talk show host in the world. You look at Budd, a very successful congressman, North Carolina. You look at Herschel Walker, Heisman Trophy winner, successful business person. People in Georgia love him. You look at Adam Laxalt, he’s an Iraqi war veteran. He’s a successful state attorney general.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

You look at Blake Master, successful tech entrepreneur. Joe O’Dea started a construction company, successful. You look at Tiffany Smiley. You look at retired General Bolden. These guys have great backgrounds. And they’re working hard. They’re running good races. And let’s look at this” Biden’s numbers are under 40 in every one of those states. This is a referendum on Biden. That’s number 1. Number 2, is we’ve spent our money early, which means we’ve been able to define the Democrats. And they’re under 50 in all these states. Some of them are under 45 so that gives us a big opportunity.

Jon Decker, Gray TV White House Correspondent

The people that you’ve just praised so much, in many cases are trailing in their respective races. You mentioned Arizona, Masters is losing. You mentioned Pennsylvania, you have Dr. Oz losing in that state, trailing in every poll that I’ve seen. And I don’t think you can point to one poll in which he’s ahead. And yet you talk about how great your candidates are. And Mitch McConnell, getting back to him again, your leader, has spoken about candidate quality and why you’re having difficulty in some of these races. Do you take issue with that?

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

Well first, let’s take Dr. Oz. He went through a tough primary. A lot of these guys went through tough primaries, right? So Mehmet went through a tough primary. He had a lot of attack ads against him. But now that he’s in the general election, he’s raised money. We’ve invested early. We’re defining Fetterman. He’s cut the lead way down. The last poll has Mehmet down four.

In Arizona…Blake Masters had a late primary. But let’s look at where Kelly is. Kelly is underwater. Eric Barlow, we beat him. So as long as we go out and define who Blake Masters is, I think he’s going to win.

On Sen. Lindsay Graham’s abortion bill and the Kansas abortion vote

Jon Decker, Gray TV White House Correspondent

Does that take you, Republicans, off message when you have a fellow senator that is in a high profile way introducing this type of legislation?

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

I’m pro-life. I believe there ought to be reasonable restrictions and exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother. And I think every campaign-

Jon Decker, Gray TV White House Correspondent

Should it be a state’s issue? Should states determine this or do you think, like Senator Graham has suggested it should be a federal issue?

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

Well, that’s a decision every senator’s going to get to make. The Democrats have made abortion a significant issue, but they don’t want to talk about their position on abortion. Their position on abortion is, and it’s radical, they want to have abortion up to the moment a little baby’s born. They want to say a baby born alive, I can just sit on the side-

Jon Decker, Gray TV White House Correspondent

I don’t know if that’s necessarily true.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

That’s exactly how they voted. They all voted for that. They all voted to say a little baby born alive they’re just going to let starve to death over on the side. And they said, if you are a pro-life healthcare worker, you have to perform an abortion. That’s what they all voted to do. That’s not what the country is. The country is … reasonable restrictions and reasonable exceptions. So every candidate has talked about this. They’ve all taken that position. And there’ll be a decision whether this is done at the states or at the federal level. But I can tell you what I keep talking about is how radical the Democrats are. We all need compassion for what a woman’s going through. But we ought to say, what can we do to make sure we bring life into this country. More life. We love babies in…But what the Democrats have done is just radical and it’s wrong.

Jon Decker, Gray TV White House Correspondent

In Kansas over the summer, they had a referendum on the issue of abortion and were you surprised by the results on that referendum? And what does that tell you, Senator, in terms of the energy that Democrats have right now on this particular issue heading into the midterms?

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

Well, here’s what Democrats are doing. First off, they-

Jon Decker, Gray TV White House Correspondent

Did their vote surprise you, first of all?

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

I wasn’t following exactly what was going to happen in Kansas, but then I think every state has different beliefs about things.

Jon Decker, Gray TV White House Correspondent

It’s a red state. So that’s why I say that it’s surprising.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

But every state has their own beliefs about what should happen and that’s great. My state’s going to be different than some other state. We come up here to represent our states. But if you look at it, the Democrats have to talk about abortion. They can’t talk about inflation. They can’t talk about job growth. We lost 242,000 full-time jobs last month. Did you know that? 242,000 full-time jobs. We’re adding part-time jobs, right? Businesses that have to cut back and people that have to go back and get a second and third job. I mean, they can’t talk about the economy, they can’t talk about schools, they can’t talk about Afghanistan, they can’t talk about the border, they can’t talk about crime because it’s all bad issues for them. So there’s all they can talk about.

Jon Decker, Gray TV White House Correspondent

It’s Senator Graham actually talking about it. I wouldn’t even be asking this question if he didn’t introduce it this past week, this legislation. He’s the one that’s brought this issue again to the fore.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

No, Democrats have brought the issue to the fore.

Jon Decker, Gray TV White House Correspondent

Well he did, was introducing an issue that Senator McConnell said most of the conference is not interested in tackling abortion at the federal level. He says most of the conference, and maybe you disagree with the Senator, believes that should be tackled at the state level.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

So if you look at every, look at the Democrats who are running in Pennsylvania. That’s all they can talk about. That’s all they’re talking about. Because they can’t talk about the issues that matter. This has been talked about for months and stopped. Why is Ron Johnson already winning? … Why is Ted Budd winning? Why is Herschel Walker winning and why is Adam Laxalt still winning? And we’re within the march of there in Colorado. We’re down three to five points in Washington. I mean, look at Maggie Hassen, she’s been talking about these issues and her approval numbers are under 45. So we are going to win.

On money

Jon Decker, Gray TV White House Correspondent

Let’s talk about money … you, meaning the NRSC, is trailing your respective counterpart, the Democrats, as it relates to money, cash on hand. Why is that? They have double the amount of money you have right now.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

Because we did the right thing. I tell people when we got this job, what you have to do to win races, you can’t wait to define your opponent. So we invested early. We actually started defining our opponents back in 2021. We knew our target states. We started defining them then and we started investing significant dollars back in May. That’s why. You think somebody like Ron Johnson, who’s never been ahead in the poll before, in his two races before, he’s leading now because we defined the Democrats. So we’ve invested our money, we raised good money, and if you want to give more money you can text 55404, but we’ve invested and we’ve defined them. That’s why we’re doing well and we’ll continue to raise money. And we’re going to have our campaigns raise money. That’s why we’re in a good position. And look at Arizona, their election was late, their primary was late. And so we’re going to win.

On Donald Trump

Jon Decker, Gray TV White House Correspondent

Would you say that the former president is a leader of the Republican Party?

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

What I’ve always said is the voters are the leaders of the Republican Party. In 2010, Republicans all across the country, none of them endorsed me. And guess what? I won because I talked to voters and I talked about the issue that was most important at the time. I had a seven-step plan at 700,000 jobs. And so that’s what I believe in. The voters in every one of these states is going to decide who their primary candidate is and the voters are going to decide who their next senator’s going to be and I believe they’re going to pick Republicans.

Jon Decker, Gray TV White House Correspondent

When was the last time you spoke to the former president about the upcoming midterms?

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

I talk to him every two or three weeks.

Jon Decker, Gray TV White House Correspondent

And are you satisfied with the amount of money that he’s contributing, his political action committee is contributing to your Senate races around the country?

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

I want everybody that has any money to give us more money.

Jon Decker, Gray TV Chief White House Correspondent

Okay, so-

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

Everybody.

Jon Decker, Gray TV White House Correspondent

He’s raised an incredible amount of money from the political action committee. It seems like he’s hoarding it all. And do you want him to give more of that money to the candidates that you have competing in competitive races?

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

That’s a choice he gets to make. Everybody-

Jon Decker, Gray TV White House Correspondent

But you must implore him when you speak to him. Mr. President, can you give some more to these tight races? We’re very close in Georgia, you might say to him. We’re very close.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

I told everybody that has money, anybody that had money in their campaign accounts and anything to help our candidates — Help the NRSC. Make sure we win.

On his responsibility if the GOP loses the Senate

Jon Decker, Gray TV White House Correspondent

You’ve been criticized in terms of running this organization, trying to raise money, recruit candidates. You’ve been criticized for taking time off on vacation in August to go to Italy. You’ve been criticized-

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

Can you imagine? Celebrating my 50th wedding anniversary…

Jon Decker, Gray TV White House Correspondent

I’m just telling you why people would criticize.

Jon Decker, Gray TV White House Correspondent

You’ve been criticized for going to Iowa instead of other states in which there are very close Senate races. How do you respond to all this criticism? Is it tough being the person who heads this committee?

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

I told people exactly what we’re going to do when I took the job and we’ve done it. I said we’re going to raise money. We’re going to invest early. We’re going to make significant investments in digital cause it’s going to pay off now. It’s going to pay off in the next five goals and cycle after that. I’ve said, we’re going to invest in Hispanic outreach. We have Hispanic outreach programs in nine competitive states. I said, we’re going to focus on election security. We’ve done all these things. We break relationships with the NRCC and the RNC and we are going to win.

Jon Decker, Gray TV White House Correspondent

You’re the conquering hero if you win. Absolutely. If you lose, are you the fall guy? Are you the fall guy if Republicans fail to take over the Senate?

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

I don’t think anybody, any one person gets credit for winning and any one person is responsible for losing. Although we all want to win.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

So I always tell the candidates, when anybody I talk to, I said, ‘Here’s the deal, you have to win your race’. I said, ‘You have to raise money, you have to get volunteers, you have to build a team’. There could be support through the cavalry. There’s super PACs out there, there’s the NRC out there, but you have to make this happen on your own.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), NRSC Chairman

I’m going to do everything I can and work hard. I do know that Biden helps us every day when he has a party for inflation in the day that inflation is 8.3%. That probably helps us a lot when he continues to leave the border open, that probably helps us a lot. Not good for the country. If you look at everything he’s doing when he says, ‘Oh, if you’re a construction worker, you’re going to pay off the debt of somebody going to an Ivy League school.’ That probably helps us win. It’s not good for the country, but Biden is basically our best advocate for why you do not want to vote for any Democrats right now.

Please check local listings for air times.

About Jon Decker:

Jon Decker is Gray Television’s White House correspondent and senior national editor. Decker is a former member of the board of the White House Correspondents’ Association. Decker serves on the faculty of Georgetown University and the UCLA School of Law where he is an adjunct professor. He is also a media fellow at the McCain Institute.

About Gray Television:

Gray Television, Inc. is a multimedia company headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. Gray is the nation’s largest owner of top-rated local television stations and digital assets in the United States. Its television stations serve 113 television markets that collectively reach approximately 36 percent of US television households. This portfolio includes 80 markets with the top-rated television station and 100 markets with the first and/or second highest-rated television station. It also owns video program companies Raycom Sports, Tupelo Media Group, and PowerNation Studios. For more information, please visit www.gray.tv.

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