A Pivotal Senate Election Cycle Is Coming... Has the NRSC Fixed Its Problems?

In the 2022 midterms, the National Republican Senatorial Committee was nothing short of a disaster. A series of terrible candidates, a massive amount of wasted money, and questionable fundraising tactics made the organization look like an absolute joke. In the end, it was one of the many reasons the 2022 midterms were a disaster for the GOP.

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The biggest problem for the NRSC was that it was seemingly used as a tool to build up a potential presidential run for then-chairman Rick Scott, the Senator from Florida.

As chairman, the NRSC was lining up behind candidates that were just amazingly bad. But, what’s more, there were a lot of questions about the fundraising tactics of the organization, as well as where all the money those tactics raised actually went. In a report that came out in the middle of the campaign season, it turned out that the NRSC had “lost” about $180 million.

The NRSC, under Scott, took advantage of, essentially, predatory fundraising techniques and invested in a lot of digital overhaul without being able to manage the money they were raising, according to the Times story.

“One fund-raising scheme used by the Senate committee,” the Times notes, “which has not previously been disclosed, involved sending an estimated millions of text messages that asked provocative questions — ‘Should Biden resign?’ — followed by a request for cash: ‘Reply YES to donate.’ Those who replied ‘YES’ had their donation processed immediately, though the text did not reveal in advance where the money was going.”

WinRed, the primary money processing platform for the Republican Party, actually stepped in and told the NRSC to stop it.

The money spent advertising to small-dollar donors digitally, looking for ways to get them to contribute (like through those text messaging hits) numbers in the tens of millions, and it didn’t raise enough to cover those costs. What’s more, according to the story, demands for refunds have quadrupled.

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Republicans outside of the NRSC were calling it the “National Rick Scott Committee,” and there were even reports of donations automatically being diverted to Scott if you didn’t change how the money was divided. For example, if you donated via an NRSC link, only a small percentage would go to the candidate it was asking you to support, with the vast majority going to the NRSC.

Former NRSC chairman Rick Scott of Florida
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The organization was nothing short of a disaster, and Scott has not been very visible since the midterms.

However, the NRSC changed hands, and Steve Daines has taken hold of the reins. According to POLITICO, the committee has actually been doing good work (which, coming from POLITICO, may actually be a kiss of death but anything is better than what Scott gave us).

The Senate GOP’s campaign arm got good news in recent weeks when two very conservative politicians eyeing a run for the upper chamber — Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano and Ohio Rep. Warren Davidson — both decided to forgo statewide campaigns. GOP strategists had worried that the two men would complicate their path to taking back the Senate, where Democrats hold a one-vote majority. Before then, the party landed a prized recruit in West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice against Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who hasn’t even announced yet whether he will seek reelection.

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This isn’t the doing of Daines alone. In fact, it’s largely out of his control. But it bodes well for the NRSC that the costly intra-party fighting during the 2022 primaries doesn’t seem to be shaping up. It could very well be the case that Daines, with the right people helping him, can take a winning hand (inasmuch as the national temperature on Biden and the Democrats is one) and, actually, win with it – something his predecessor couldn’t do.

No one in the ranks thinks these developments alone will result in victories. But behind the scenes, top Republicans, led by National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Steve Daines, have been jubilant over the stretch they’ve had. And they expect the good vibes to keep rolling. Privately, there is a growing belief that they are close to landing even more top recruits in the critical swing states of Montana, Pennsylvania and Nevada.

“There’s good people nibbling on the hook,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). “It’s just up to Daines to set that up.”

As we have repeatedly established, the Republican Party is certainly no stranger to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Daines will still have his work cut out for him, but the seats up for re-election this year are more favorable to the GOP than the 2022 cycle, and if the NRSC and other Republican groups do their jobs properly, they could undo the damage of 2022.

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Maybe don’t hold your breath on it, but hold out a little hope.

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