Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was re-elected overwhelmingly as his party’s Senate leader on Wednesday, holding off Senator Rick Scott of Florida in the first challenge Mr. McConnell has faced since assuming the post in 2007.
Though Mr. McConnell won convincingly, the contest exposed a divide over strategy among Senate Republicans that is likely to complicate their attempts to counter the Democratic majority over the next two years.
Meeting behind closed doors for more than three hours, Republican senators sat at desks in the Old Senate Chamber, a semicircular room adorned with marble columns and an ornate central table hung with crimson fabric, to hash out their differences and vote. In a final tally of 37-10, with one person voting present, Mr. McConnell easily defeated Mr. Scott.
The rest of the Republican leadership has been set with little fanfare or competition: Senator John Thune of South Dakota will remain as the No. 2 position, the minority whip, and Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming will remain as the conference chair, the No. 3 place.
Mr. Scott, who led the party’s unsuccessful campaign effort to reclaim the majority, portrayed Mr. McConnell as the face of the status quo. Many Senate Republicans instead held Mr. Scott responsible for the poor midterm showing.
Mr. McConnell, who months ago raised “candidate quality” as a problem for his party in the midterms, said the Republican losses signaled a badly damaged party brand that had alienated crucial voting groups.
“We underperformed among independents and moderates because their impression of many of the people in our party in leadership roles is that there’s chaos, negativity, excessive attacks — and it frightened independent and moderate Republican voters,” Mr. McConnell told reporters on Tuesday, saying he welcomed the challenge from Mr. Scott.
Despite calls to delay the leadership vote until after a runoff in Georgia set for Dec. 6most Senate Republicans said they needed to quickly resolve the infighting and move on.
“I think the most important thing we can do is get these differences behind us,” said Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas and a McConnell ally.
When the next Congress convenes in January, Mr. McConnell will set the record for serving the longest in a Senate leadership role, surpassing Mike Mansfield of Montana.
Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.