Battleground GOP Senate candidates diverge over Scott plan

Scott’s 11-point plan maps out conservative approaches to a range of topics.

March 10, 2022, 3:07 PM

When National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Rick Scott announced his "11 Point Plan to Rescue America" in late February, it was met with resistance from established Washington lawmakers. Weeks later, it appears to be gaining traction among a handful of deeply conservative GOP Senate candidates,while continuing to fall flat among most Republicans in the running across midterm battlegrounds.

Scott's 11-point outline mapped out conservative approaches to a range of topics including the economy, the nation's education system, racial equality, crime, immigration and several other social issues. The public proposal specifically highlighted priorities like finishing the border wall and naming it after former President Donald Trump, promoting two-parent households, opposing abortions and requiring all Americans to pay "some income tax to have skin in the game."

Upon its publication, the plan was met with criticism from both sides of the aisle. While advocates in various fields blasted points in the plan that targeted social issues -- such as prohibiting "critical race theory" in public schools, insisting there are only "two genders" and banning tax dollars from being spent on diversity training -- lawmakers and political heavyweights critiqued Scott's income tax proposal.

ABC News contacted more than a dozen candidates in eight battleground states to weigh in on Scott's plan. Of those contacted, six responded and three expressed support for the plan as a whole. Three candidates expressed support for the NRSC chair's decision to present ideas to the public while expressing reluctance to support certain elements of the overall agenda, specifically raising taxes. Alternatively, five candidates did not respond to ABC News' request for comment, and none voiced full-throated opposition to the plan in its entirety.

Sen. Rick Scott speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Feb. 26, 2022, in Orlando, Fla.
John Raoux/AP

Scott released the plan in his capacity as a senator, rather than his position as a committee leader for the upper chamber's campaign arm, according to the NRSC.

Among the most high-profile responses offering support for Scott's proposal came from incumbent Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, a strong Trump supporter.

"Senator Rick Scott put forward his proposal that opposes reckless federal spending and intrusive government overreach and supports conservative goals like local control of education, election integrity, religious liberty, and an improved health care system. I think it's important for elected officials to tell their constituents what they are for, and I support Senator Scott for doing so," Johnson said in a statement.

In Pennsylvania, Scott received praise from two Republican Senate primary candidates -- veteran and conservative political commentator Kathy Barnette and former Trump administration ambassador to Denmark, Carla Sands.

"I'm reading through [the plan], and so far, I agree, and I am grateful that someone with that platform is now saying the quiet parts out loud," said Barnette, the only Black candidate in her state's GOP primary, in a phone interview as she reviewed it. She added that the plan "crosses political affiliation -- most Americans believe these things."

She voiced support for classroom policies laid out in the plan, including requiring students to salute the American flag and "learn that America is a great country."

While she didn't directly comment on the component of Scott's plan that says "no government policy will be based on race," she did say that "racism is real."

"I have never said that it wasn't [...] what I have tried to instill in my own children is that in today's America if you don't like me because of the color of my skin, that's more your problem than it is mine."

Kathy Barnette speaks during a forum for Republican Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidates, Feb. 21, 2022, in Villanova, Pa.
Matt Rourke/AP, FILE

In an email statement to ABC News, Sands voiced strong support for Scott's proposal, while placing blame on the Biden administration for inflation and harkening back to policies implemented under Trump.

"I stand with Senator Rick Scott and his 11 point plan to rescue America," the former ambassador said, adding a parallel to Newt Gingrich's 1994 "Contract with America."

Philadelphia-area attorney George Bochetto said he agrees with many of Scott's "bold positions" but stopped short of backing the plan as a whole over economic concerns.

"I will not be voting for tax increases, and I will protect Medicare and Social Security," Bochetto said in a statement.

Other high-profile Republican candidates including Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dave McCormick and Jeff Bartos did not return ABC News' requests for comment.

Scott's proposal was met with a more lukewarm reception from his Florida colleague, Sen. Marco Rubio, who told reporters last week he had not seen the whole plan and is unsure whether he agrees with all points but that "it's good that people offer ideas."

His main point of contention is that Scott's plan would cause Americans to pay more in taxes -- a dealbreaker for many Republicans.

During the North Carolina GOP primary debate, former House Rep. Mark Walker said even though he supports Scott, he does not believe everyone should pay taxes and that people should pay taxes if they have an income.

Rep. Mark Walker speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Feb. 24, 2022, in Orlando, Fla.
John Raoux/AP, FILE

Former North Carolina governor and GOP Senate candidate Pat McCrory shared the same sentiment -- that he supports Scott but not tax hikes.

"The problem is not needing more money, the problem is spending," McCrory said on the debate stage.

In Nevada, GOP Senate candidate Adam Laxalt said in a statement to ABC News he does not support Scott's plan.

"I don't support tax increases on anyone," he said. "That's why I signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge."

Chuck Morse, one of several Republicans looking to flip Democrat Sen. Maggie Hassan's seat in New Hampshire, also expressed hesitancy over taxes while avoiding a clear condemnation of the proposal.

"I have not seen the full report. I am a proud tax cutter and have signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge to NH voters to oppose any new taxes or tax increases. I am building my own campaign based on the #603 way, not any Washington D.C. way," Morse said in an emailed statement to ABC News.

Fellow New Hampshire Republicans Don Buldoc declined to comment and Kevin Smith did not comment for this article.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters after a Republican strategy meeting at the Capitol in Washington, March 8, 2022.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The candidate responses come on the heels of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offering a strong rebuke of Scott's proposal. Although McConnell has not released a public Republican agenda, one senator with knowledge of the matter told ABC News that McConnell warned his Republican colleagues in a recent leadership meeting that Scott's plan could damage the party ahead of the midterms.

"If we are 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," McConnell said during a recent press conference.

"Let me tell you what will not be a part of our agenda -- we will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people, sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years. That will not be a part of the Republican Senate Majority agenda," he added.

ABC News' Allison Pecorin contributed to this report

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