GOP cancels Trump attempt to oust McConnell
Voters “care more about what you do as a senator, what you talk about, what you voted against, how you fight for it,” said Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R- Ala.), Who won in 2020 with Trump’s endorsement and believes McConnell is doing “a good job.”
The former president, who remains critical of McConnell for refusing to help him overturn the 2020 election results, has stepped up calls to oust the Kentucky Republican from leadership in recent weeks. This week alone, Trump released several official statements lambasting McConnell, claiming that the GOP leader “saved the Democrats” by making a deal to allow them to raise the debt ceiling, which has caused some consternation within of the Senate GOP.
“How this guy can stay as a leader is beyond comprehension – it’s not just from me, but from pretty much everyone in the Republican Party,” Trump wrote Thursday. âIt’s a disaster and should be replaced as ‘Leader’ as soon as possible! “
The barrage of attacks on McConnell was amplified by Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, who also sued the GOP leader on air this fall. Carlson, during a segment last week, announced that his show would begin regularly highlighting issues with McConnell, whom he described as “an instrument of the left.”
Yet anti-McConnell sentiment has yet to become a dominant campaign theme ahead of the 2022 election. Republican campaign staff in several states have said their candidates have so far received only ‘a question or two at events about their support for McConnell – far from a rallying cry from the Conservative base.
“I’m sure a consultant is telling them you have to be anti-establishment,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune (RS.D.). “I don’t think most people will vote for a candidate based on who they vote for the leader.”
To date, only two prominent GOP Senate candidates have called for McConnell’s ouster – Kelly Tshibaka, an Alaskan Republican who challenges incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski, and Eric Greitens, the former Missouri governor who is running. a vacant seat by retired Sen Roy Blunt.
“You’re going to see a lot of leaders in the Senate, like me, not supporting Mitch McConnell for leadership because he’s anything but a leader,” said Tshibaka, who challenges one of Trump’s main targets in the chamber.
Tshibaka, who made the statement Monday on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast, is so far the only Trump-endorsed candidate to publicly reject McConnell. Greitens, who in September became the first Senate candidate in 2022 to oppose McConnell as a leader, also did so on the popular Conservative show Bannon. Trump has so far not supported the Missouri race.
In an interview, Murkowski said she supported McConnell’s leadership and denigrated Tshibaka’s tactics: âThere is probably a national campaign manual; I don’t think Alaskans play by a national playbook. “
Aside from Tshibaka, Trump-backed Senate candidates elsewhere have refused to take the bait on the McConnell question, suggesting that Trump’s now year-long crusade against the Republican Senate leader has failed to grow. an effective litmus test in the Senate primaries.
This is despite Trump’s status as the de facto leader of the Republican Party and his great popularity among GOP voters – 83% of whom have a favorable opinion of him. McConnell’s favorability rating, on the other hand, is 41%, according to a new poll from POLITICO and Morning Consult.
In the North Carolina Senate race, Trump-backed representative Ted Budd repeatedly refused to answer if he supported McConnell. In a statement to POLITICO this week, his campaign adviser Jonathan Felts said Budd was focused on winning.
“Our only thinking about the future leadership election is that we want to do our part to make sure the Republican leader is the majority leader, not the minority leader, so that we can stop Joe Biden’s liberal agenda. “said Felts.
Meanwhile, the campaign of Budd’s Republican opponent, former Gov. Pat McCrory, openly praises McConnell’s leadership.
âGov. McCrory had an excellent discussion with Senator McConnell before deciding to run for the Senate, and he will absolutely support him for the position of leader, âsaid Jordan Shaw, McCrory’s campaign advisor.
McConnell declined to comment for this story. Asked Thursday about pressure from Trump to replace him as leader, the Kentucky Republican refused to sign up, only telling reporters “good try.” His advisers say the GOP leader is focused solely on winning back the majority – and point out that no one has ever voted against McConnell as leader, a post he has held since 2007.
The last senator to pledge to vote against a party leader, Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, ended up not opposing Chuck Schumer because there was no alternative to consider.
Trump-backed Senate candidate Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) – whom McConnell opposed in a 2017 Senate primary – told POLITICO earlier this month that he didn’t would not rule out supporting McConnell for the post of leader, an election the Republican conference holds every two years. But he also made it clear that McConnell was not his favorite Republican and that he would support McConnell “if he’s the most conservative.”
“There are some that he is more conservative than, and others not,” he added.
Tuberville said Brooks “sees the outside of what we do – he doesn’t see the inside of meetings, discussions, strategy and all that.”
McConnell’s strength in the GOP was on display at a festive lunch Thursday when he was praised by about half of the caucus for his leadership, according to a senior Republican official briefed on the rally. Conservative Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) Touted McConnell’s decision to open a Supreme Court seat in 2016, while moderates Murkowski and Senator Susan Collins (R- Maine) also spoke warm words for McConnell.
Other Republicans trying to distinguish themselves in the overcrowded Missouri primary – including Rep. Billy Long, a longtime Trump ally who seeks endorsement – refused to join Greitens in opposing McConnell, even though the former governor tried to make it a central problem in the countryside.
“We believe that every running candidate who wants to call themselves MAGA should be asked the question,” said Dylan Johnson, campaign manager for Greitens. “Are they going to support Mitch McConnell or not?”
Long said in a recent interview that he wouldn’t be doing the same.
If the Republicans are in the majority “and the only one on the Republican side is Mitch McConnell, you can’t tell me Eric Greitens won’t vote for him,” Long said. âI mean, it’s a great talking point. I’ll give it to Eric.
State Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s campaign did not respond to an inquiry into her stance on the GOP leader, while Representative Vicky Hartzler said in a statement she was “beholden to no one in Washington “and that she” would vote for the leaders who stood up against the spewing liberal madness of a toxic awakened minority.
In Ohio, where Trump has yet to approve the controversial Republican primary, only the campaign of front-runner Josh Mandel responded to POLITICO’s inquiry into his stance on McConnell.
His spokesperson pointed to Mandel’s earlier comment on the matter, where he questioned whether anyone was running against McConnell and said he would “not be going through hypothetical situations that don’t even exist in the reality”.
JD Vance, the author of âHillbilly Elegy,â who retracted his past remarks disparaging Trump and sought to portray himself as a born-again MAGA devotee, told conservative podcast host Jack Murphy in September that he had doubts about keeping McConnell as leader, but did not swear to oppose him.
âI have no idea who should be the Senate Majority Leader,â Vance said on the podcast. “I think McConnell has made it clear that he’s a bit, sometimes a bit out of touch with where the base is.”
Later in the interview, Vance said it was “time to move beyond the very old ruling class that dominated the Republican Party for a long time,” although his campaign did not tell POLITICO s ‘he intended to vote against McConnell – who personally encouraged Vance to run for the Senate in 2018 – if elected.
Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) said candidate announcements regarding opposition to McConnell are “designed for an audience of one”: Trump.
âI’ve been through a few leadership elections here, and I’ve seen a lot of people from the outside trying to influence that election,â said Cornyn. âAnd I’ve never seen it work because people do their own assessment against a lot of different criteria on who they want their leaders to be. “
Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.