Cold War, Hot War-- Congressional Republicans Panic Over Bitter Trump-McConnell Feud
Last night, writing for the Washington Post, Mike DeBonis and Josh Dawsey asserted that the Trump-McConnell clash "threatens to settle into a cold war." That would be a normal assumption if we weren't talking about a sociopath and narcissist like Trump. He is much more likely to continue trying to get McConnell ousted as GOP leader. Just yesterday, one of his allies allies in Kentucky, Nelson County, Republican Party chair Don Thrasher demanded McConnell resign his leadership position! I'd call this more of a hot war than a cold war:
DeBonis and Josh Dawsey reported that were it up to Trump, "Republicans would spend the next two years purging their ranks and reshaping themselves in his own image." But McConnell, who blames Trump for the loss of the 2 Georgia Senate seats and the damage Trump's failed coup did to the GOP brand, would rather the party "steers clear of the former president’s personal grievances and conspiratorial rhetoric to put the GOP back in power as soon as possible."
The 2 reporters spoke with 10 GOP operatives and are convinced that "the conflict is likely to quickly settle into a cold war, with major battles over the direction of the party to be avoided or deferred for months as leaders hope to train their fire on Democrats rather than each other." that is so not Trump and so obviously wishful thinking. It's hard tp believe that DeBonis and Dawsey are falling for it.
Multiple Republicans close to McConnell said he has little interest in carrying on a back-and-forth with the former president. Having said his piece about Trump’s conduct after the election, McConnell has signaled he plans to focus his attention on opposing Democratic policies and ensuring the most electable Republicans emerge from Senate primaries next year.
It remains unsettled, however, just how far Trump will pursue his vendetta against McConnell-- one that descended into baseless attacks on McConnell’s family finances and his political standing in his home state of Kentucky. Many Trump advisers believe he is wise to target McConnell as a wildly unpopular symbol of the GOP establishment-- and some believe Trump can push McConnell from power.
“It doesn’t make too much sense having the least popular person in the party attacking the most popular person,” Trump spokesman Jason Miller said Wednesday. “I’m not sure what Mitch thinks he is going to accomplish.”
...“The contrast is pretty simple: Mitch McConnell doesn’t care about being liked, he cares about winning. Donald Trump cares about being liked; he cares much less about winning,” said Steven Law, president of the Senate Leadership Fund, a GOP super PAC allied with McConnell.
McConnell has not spoken with Trump since Dec. 14-- the day McConnell acknowledged President Biden won the November election-- and he does not plan to ever speak with him again, people close to him say. Like others, they spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal details. Even the back channel the two men once had-- between McConnell’s former top aide Josh Holmes and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner-- is now cold.
Multiple people close to McConnell said that they did not expect the veteran Senate leader to carry his personal dispute with Trump any further. In brief interviews this week with Politico and the Wall Street Journal, he made no mention of Trump, only the need to prioritize “electability” in GOP Senate nominees for 2022.
“I would be very surprised if he ever says the words Donald Trump again,” Holmes said Wednesday. “If you told Mitch McConnell that every single day he’d receive a love letter from Donald Trump excoriating his physical appearance and ultimately he ended up with the majority in 2022, he’d take the deal in a heartbeat,” Holmes added.
More in question is Trump’s discipline. His 600-word statement Tuesday, issued through his allied Save America super PAC, came after weeks of growing fury with McConnell-- who first denounced Trump’s false election fraud claims in a speech delivered moments before rioters breached the Capitol. McConnell later accused him of provoking the mob, then signaled he was openly considering convicting Trump on a Democratic impeachment charge.
McConnell ultimately voted to acquit Trump but then delivered a reproval on the Senate floor moments later, accusing the former president of “disgraceful dereliction of duty” and suggesting he ought to face further consequences in court. But Trump advisers said he was especially infuriated by an op-ed McConnell published Tuesday in The Journal, in which he laid “moral responsibility” for the riot on Trump’s shoulders and accused him of “unconscionable” behavior amid the violence, before explaining what he viewed as the constitutional basis for his acquittal vote.
Trump’s attacks on McConnell came as he plotted a broader return to the political arena. He spent Tuesday at his Florida resort with son Donald Trump Jr., former campaign aide Brad Parscale and others, and has spoken with advisers about setting up a fundraising infrastructure and database system outside the Republican Party’s, a person familiar with his comments said.
Some in Trump’s orbit urged him Wednesday to de-escalate with McConnell, arguing that a long fight with a skilled party leader would not be helpful to either man. But Trump has told people that taking on McConnell will be popular with his supporters and will drive favorable TV coverage.
How much he attacks McConnell going forward partially depends on what McConnell does going forward, one adviser said. Trump has also signaled his desire to target other Republicans who backed his impeachment, including Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the House Republican conference chairwoman.
Asked about the president’s criticisms of McConnell, whether McConnell should remain as minority leader and whether senators should continue backing McConnell, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel issued a statement noting the RNC’s narrow role “to provide resources to help Republican candidates win in the general election.”
...What many operatives fear, however, is that Trump becomes guided by his personal grievances as the midterm elections approach-- perhaps by endorsing far-right GOP candidates in swing-state Senate races, clearing the way for Democratic victories.
“It has the potential to be a very large headache for GOP Senate candidates,” said a Republican operative who worked on the 2020 Senate races, and who also expressed doubt as to whether Trump would follow through on this threats: “He’s never really put his money where his mouth is. The big thing is, will he actually help these people? Will he actually raise money? Or is he just going to go out and endorse things?”
...Some Trump-loyal senators are warning McConnell to watch his step. Speaking on multiple talk radio shows this week, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) blasted McConnell for his attacks on Trump and warned him that his views were out of step with most GOP senators.
“I would have liked to see Leader McConnell kind of zip his lips-- you know, take your vote, issue a statement, and then we should all move on,” Johnson said Monday on The Regular Joe Show, which is broadcast on several Wisconsin radio stations. He added that McConnell’s criticism of Trump was “not helpful” and “just divides Republicans when we need to remain united if we’re going to push back against the radical left that’s now in power.”
And Lindsey Graham, on Sean Hannity's show, said "What I would say to Senator McConnell: I know Trump can be a handful, but he is the most dominant figure in the Republican Party. We don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of taking back the majority without Donald Trump. If you don’t get that, you’re just not looking."
Anti-Trumper, Lisa Murkowski-- the only senator to vote to convict who is up for reelection next year-- was on KTOO in Juneau saying that "The Republican Party, in my view, was a pretty good party before Donald Trump and I believe we can be a good party after Donald Trump. Right now, I think we’re still trying to figure out who we are." She did say that if she switches parties it will not be to join the Democrats.
And Nikki Haley-- who plans on running for national office, wrote an OpEd for the Wall Street Journal yesterday that the media is trying to divide Republicans. She wrote that "the liberal media... wants to stoke a nonstop Republican civil war. The media playbook starts with the demand that everyone pick sides about Donald Trump-- either love or hate everything about him. The moment anyone on the right offers the slightest criticism of the 45th president, the media goes berserk: Republicans are trying to have it both ways! It’s a calculated strategy to pit conservatives against one another. It’s also a ridiculous false choice. Real life is never that simple. Someone can do both good and bad things."
As far as good and bad things, new polling out this morning from Navigator, shows that most of the country trusts the Democrats to do good things and the Republicans... not so much, at least not for the middle and working class.
Late last night, NY Times reporters Carl Hulse and Nick Fandos wrote that McConnell's fight with Trump has "given new cause for Republican division that could spill into the midterm elections. The miscalculation has left McConnell in an unusual place-- on the defensive, with Mr. Trump pressing for his ouster, and no easy way to extricate himself from the political bind. 'McConnell has many talents, there is no doubt about it, but if he is setting this thing up as a way to expunge Trump from the Republican Party, that is a failing proposition,' Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, said in an interview on Wednesday... [and] said support for McConnell was already emerging as a negative factor among Trump-backing Republican primary voters he speaks with back home. He said the minority leader risked becoming a full-blown pariah for Senate candidates if he did not move quickly toward unifying the party... Johnson said Republicans cannot win without the ardent Trump supporters now alienated by McConnell’s denunciation of Trump. He lumped the Republican leader in with the Lincoln Project and other anti-Trump Republicans who tried to 'purge' the party of Trumpism. 'They are not perceiving reality,' he said. 'You are not going to be able to have them on your side if you are ripping the person they have a great deal of sympathy for in what he has done for this country and the personal toll President Trump has shouldered,' he said.