Before we are deluged with all the ridiculous, poorly informed, ill-advised or thoughtless takes on the meaning of the election results, and before everyone uses those results to grind their personal axes, it seems fitting and timely to take a moment to preemptively correct one important element of the record.
Way back in the summer, when it was much less clear to most people that the Republicans would finish this cycle with somewhere between 52 and 55 senators, there was a media boomlet attacking Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott for his management of the National Republican Senatorial Committee during this cycle.
His overall strategy was defective. He was spending too much money and on the wrong things. His team was suboptimal. He shouldn’t have issued his Rescue America Plan. He should have engaged in Republican primaries to ensure that the most “electable” candidates were, ah, elected.
Sometimes it is difficult to guess where attacks like this originate. But in this case, it seems reasonable to assume that the concerns about Republican campaigns’ efforts in Senate elections originated with the management of Senate Republicans.
That’s fine. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.
But if the Republicans do gain the majority, it will be in large measure because Mr. Scott had a plan and stuck with it. It will be because Mr. Scott trusted in the wisdom of the primary voters rather than the assessment of the “experts” as to who was “electable.” It will be because Mr. Scott (and a handful of others) had the wisdom and foresight to put forth ideas about what a governing majority might attempt to do. It was because Mr. Scott was quick enough to identify fear of lawlessness as an important secondary issue (after, of course, the economy) in this campaign.
In short, Mr. Scott and his constant and consistent efforts were an essential ingredient in the coming Republican majority in the Senate.
President John F. Kennedy, in perhaps the most trenchant observation ever in politics, once said that “Victory has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan.” There can be no doubt that a Republican majority in the Senate is the result of sprawling, impressive efforts by thousands of people, including volunteers, campaign staff, donors and the candidates themselves.
At the same time, some people are subject to greater scrutiny in the course of a campaign. This cycle, Mr. Scott was subject to more intense scrutiny than most. To accurately assess the performance of the NRSC, it is important to remember that the Republicans are defending 20 Senate seats this cycle. Only 14 Democratic seats are being contested.
With that as context, the likely results of the election — almost certainly a Republican majority characterized by the preservation of all Republican-held seats and the taking of at least two and perhaps as many as five seats held by Democrats (almost a third of the seats held by Democrats in this cycle) — is remarkable.
There is no doubt, of course, that the atmospherics of this election — a deteriorating economy and a dissolving presidency – were fundamental to the victory. There is also no doubt that party organizations have underperformed in similarly advantageous circumstances. Leadership is important.
So, if you have a chance, take a moment to thank Sen. Rick Scott for his leadership this cycle. It was essential.
• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, co-hosts “The Unregulated Podcast.” He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.