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POLITICO Playbook PM: The latest twists in the McConnell vs. Scott saga

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Mitch McConnell was reelected as Senate minority leader after a challenge from Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.). | Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo

HAPPENING NOW — After nearly four hours of closed-door deliberations, MITCH McCONNELL successfully fought back an attempt to oust him as Senate GOP leader, defeating NRSC Chairman RICK SCOTT (R-Fla.) in a 37-10 vote.

The point of the doomed-to-fail challenge wasn’t to can him — the group of rebels knew it was a long shot — so much as signal discontent about the midterms. Insiders expected Scott to garner as many as 10 votes in the first challenge to McConnell in his 15 years atop the conference. More from Burgess Everett

This morning, McConnell’s critics’ push to delay leadership elections went down 16-32. Sens. JOHN BARRASSO (R-Wyo.) and TOM COTTON (R-Ark.) nominated McConnell for leader while RON JOHNSON (R-Wis.) named Scott. Follow our colleagues Burgess Everett and Marianne LeVine on Twitter for the latest.

SPEAKING OF McCONNELL VS. SCOTT … After a host of senators on Tuesday called for an audit of NRSC spending this cycle, Scott is turning the finger right around at the McConnell world allies who ran the Senate GOP’s campaign arm before him.

In a statement this morning, Scott said that when he took over the NRSC, “I immediately became aware that hundreds of thousands of dollars in unauthorized and improper bonuses were paid to outgoing staff after the majority was lost in 2020.”

“When that’s your starting point, you work really hard to make sure there are transparent processes and we are more than happy to sit down with any member of the caucus to walk them through our spending,” he continued. “We hope [the McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund] and One Nation do the same.”

First off: wow. This is quite the accusation. And it’s almost certain that we haven’t heard the last of this — Scott will surely be expected to produce receipts to back up his claims.

At the same, the sniping between Team McConnell and Team Scott on Twitter has reached epic proportions. Yesterday, STEVEN LAW with SLF accused the NRSC of “steal[ing]” Money from candidates because one fundraising email for Georgia Senate candidate HERSCHEL WALKER sent 99 percent of the funds to the committee — not Walker’s campaign. NBC’s Marc Caputo later reported that “the NRSC fundraising endeavor differs from the others because the committee has pledged to be all in for Walker and is the only one spending money on air right now.” As in: all the money goes to Walker regardless.

Meanwhile, Scott’s top outside adviser questioned McConnell’s commitment to winning the Georgia runoff because SLF hasn’t yet spent money on it — though the organization eventually announced $14 million for the effort.

“Extremely odd. 1 week already gone, only three to go,” CURT ANDERSON texted NBC’s Caputo and Sahil Kapur, who have a good story up on the ugly feud. “It would be complete malpractice and dereliction of duty to leave Herschel Walker behind.”

Law later tweeted back at Anderson: “Your TV buy was barely 350 GRP in ATL. But don’t worry little buddy—we’re used to covering for you.”

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THE GREAT WAR — RUPERT MURDOCH’s NY Post escalated its shade-throwing toward DONALD TRUMP this morning, with a runner along the bottom of the front page saying “FLORIDA MAN MAKES ANNOUNCEMENT” and burying his reelection news on Page 26. See the cover … Read the pithy item inside

STATISTIC OF THE DAY — “New Measure of Climate’s Toll: Disasters Are Now Common Across US” by NYT’s Christopher Flavelle: “From 2011 to the end of last year, 90 percent of US counties have experienced a flood, hurricane, wildfire or other calamity serious enough to receive a federal disaster declaration, according to the report, and more than 700 counties suffered five or more such disasters. During that same period, 29 states had, on average, at least one federally declared disaster a year somewhere within their borders. Five states have experienced at least 20 disasters since 2011.”

AD ASTRA — “NASA’s mightiest moon rocket lifts off 50 years after Apollo,” by AP’s Marcia Dunn in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Good Wednesday afternoon.

MORE MIDTERMS FALLOUT

THE TRUMP EFFECT — “Trump’s Drag on Republicans Quantified: A Five-Point Penalty,” by NYT’s Nate Cohn: “With the benefit of the final results, we can gauge how well the MAGA candidates fared compared with other Republicans. The five-point penalty measure controls for how the district voted in 2020 and whether the district was an open seat or held by a Democratic or Republican incumbent. Here’s another way to think about it: Non-MAGA Republicans in 2022 ran six points better than Mr. Trump did in 2020; the MAGA Republicans barely fared better than him at all.”

— Related read:“Trump’s Don’t-Blame-Me Calculus,” by NYT’s Jonathan Weisman: “The announcement of another White House run by Donald Trump showed that in his heads-I-win-tails-you-lose world, all successes accrue to him. Any failings are someone else’s fault.”

THE NEW NORMAL — “’Stop the Steal’ Isn’t Conceding,” by The Atlantic’s Elaine Godfrey: “The movement may have fizzled without Donald Trump, but if he runs again in 2024, we haven’t seen the last of it. Even if Trump isn’t on the ballot, an entire swath of the Republican Party is now open to the idea that any narrow loss can be blamed on fraud. Trust in elections among rank-and-file GOP voters remains low, and in some respects has gotten worse, according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center. The damage inflicted in 2020 endures. ‘He’s broken the seal,’ SARAH LONGWELL, the publisher of The Bulwark, told me. Election denial ‘is part of our politics now.’”

WAY DOWN THE BALLOT — “Rent stabilization measures win in US midterm election,” by AP’s Janie Har: “Voters approved capping rent increases at below inflation in three US cities: Portland, Maine, and Richmond and Santa Monica in California. Another measure was leading in the vote count in Pasadena outside of Los Angeles. In Florida, voters in Orange County, which includes Orlando, overwhelmingly passed a rent stabilization measure but a court ruling means it’s unlikely to go into force.”

2024 WATCH

RIVALRY RENEWED — “Trump Is Running in 2024. The White House Has a Plan,” by NYT’s Michael Shear: “Inside the West Wing, a small group of presidential advisers has been working to develop a plan for how Mr. Biden and the White House will respond to what they expect will be a constant stream of invective from the former president now that he is formally a candidate. … Mr. Biden will continue to underscore his belief that Mr. Trump is a threat to democracy, advisers say. But his political handlers are determined to show that Mr. Trump’s four years did not yield actual accomplishments for the American people.”

MORE POLITICS

DARK MONEY DOWNLOAD — “Two anonymous $425 million donations gives dark money conservative group a massive haul,” by Hailey Fuchs: “One of the biggest conservative dark money organizations in the nation was boosted last year by two separate anonymous gifts, each totaling more than $425 million dollars. The money sent to DonorsTrust, a 501(c)(3) charity that has become one of the most influential conduit of funds in Republican-leaning circles, was a huge chunk of the more than $1 billion the group brought in in 2021, according to a tax filing obtained first by POLITICO. They are among the largest ever donations to a politically-connected group.”

THE WHITE HOUSE

WHAT BIDEN COMES HOME TO — “Biden flexes his political muscle abroad while Trump’s shadow reemerges at home,” by Jonathan Lemire in Bali, Indonesia: “In one of the most eventful stretches of his presidency, Biden concluded a trip in Asia with renewed political strength, having reinforced the leading role of the United States on the world stage at the time of war. But even amid the glow of what advisers saw as a successful trip came reminders of how tenuous that success can be. As a homeward-bound Air Force One lifted off Wednesday into the warm Indonesian sky, the president was presented with a fresh set of concerns.”

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WAS IN UKRAINE

ANOTHER KIND OF SUPPLY CHAIN ​​PROBLEM — “Ukrainian Analysis Identifies Western Supply Chain Behind Iran’s Drones,” by WSJ’s Ian Talley

AMERICA AND THE WORLD

AT THE UN CLIMATE SUMMIT — “A Clash Over Degrees: How Hot Should Nations Allow the Earth to Get?” by NYT’s Brad Plumer, David Gelles and Lisa Friedman in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt: “The United States and the European Union both say that any final agreement at the summit, known as COP27, should underscore the importance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees . But a few nations, including China, have so far resisted efforts to reaffirm the 1.5-degree goal, according to negotiators from several industrialized countries. Failing to do so would be a major departure from last year’s climate pact and, to some, a tacit admission of defeat.”

BEYOND THE BELTWAY

CLIMATE FILES — “As climate change progresses, trees in cities struggle,” by AP’s Manuel Valdes in Seattle

MUSK READS

ELON’S EDICT — “Musk issues ultimatum to staff: Commit to ‘hardcore’ Twitter or take severance,” by WaPo’s Faiz Siddiqui and Jeremy Merrill: “Employees were told they had to sign a pledge to stay on with the company. ‘If you are sure that you want to be part of the new Twitter, please click yes on the link below,’ read the email to all staff, which linked to an online form.

“Anyone who did not sign the pledge by 5 pm Eastern time Thursday would receive three months of severance pay, the message said. In the midnight email, which was obtained by The Washington Post, [ELON] MUSK said Twitter ‘will need to be extremely hardcore’ going forward. ‘This will mean working long hours at high intensity,’ he said. ‘Only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade.’”

THE ECONOMY

INFLATION IS COMING FOR DINNER — “Rising food costs take a bite out of Thanksgiving dinner,” by AP’s Dee-Ann Durbin: “Americans are bracing for a costly Thanksgiving this year, with double-digit percent increases in the price of turkey, potatoes , stuffing, canned pumpkin and other staples. The US government estimates food prices will be up 9.5% to 10.5% this year; historically, they’ve risen only 2% annually.”

PLAYBOOKERS

MEDIA MOVES — Amna Nawaz and Geoff Bennett are taking over as co-anchors of PBS NewsHour’s nightly newscast, taking over from longtime anchor Judy Woodruff. The announcement

— Laura Jarrett will join NBC as a senior legal correspondent, Variety’s Brian Steinberg reports. She previously was a co-anchor of CNN’s “Early Start.”

WHITE HOUSE ARRIVAL LOUNGE — Millie Bhatia is now a policy adviser for the White House’s Covid-19 response team. She previously was a health policy adviser for Rep. Steven Horseford (D-Nev.).

SPOTTED at Belgium Ambassador Jean-Arthur Regibeau’s King’s Day celebration, where he sang the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You” with the band Suspicious Package on Tuesday night: Kuwait Ambassador Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi, Luxembourg Ambassador Nicole Bintner-Bakshian, Kosovo Ambassador Ilir Dugolli, Dutch Ambassador Andre Haspels, Slovakian Ambassador Radovan Javorcik, Bahamas Ambassador Wendall Jones, Monaco Ambassador Maguy Maccario Doyle, Estonian Ambassador Kristjan Prikk, Latvian Ambassador Maris Selga, North Macedonia Ambassador Zoran Popov, Nicolas Berliner, Tim Burger, Christina Sevilla, Josh Meyer, Tom Toles, Bryan Greene, Daniel Lippman, Tim Noviello, Nihal Krishan, Raquel Krahenbühl, Steve Rochlin, Bruce Kieloch and Mark Vlasic.

ENGAGED — Tyler Goldberg, director of political strategy at Assembly Global, and Rachel Glasberg, a producer for NBC News’ “Stay Tuned” and a CNN alum, got engaged on Monday during a hike in Eastham on Cape Cod. The couple met at Emory University in 2013 when Tyler was Rachel’s campus tour guide. Pic

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