Who Would You Bet On-- Mothra Or Godzilla? Will Congressional Republicans Ever Unite And Throw Off The Shackles That Bind Them To The Mad Man?
Writing for the Wall Street Journal yesterday, Michael Bender and Lindsay Wise tackled the GOP Senate tinderbox: the on-going, heating-up McConnell-Trump death-match. "Trump," they wrote, "has spoken recently with senators and allies about trying to depose McConnell and whether any Republicans are interested in mounting a challenge, according to people familiar with the conversations. There is little appetite among Senate Republicans for such a plan, lawmakers and aides said, but the discussions risk driving a wedge deeper between the most influential figure in the Republican Party and its highest-ranking member in elected office."
I asked one of my few contacts among Senate Republican staffers who he thinks hates the other one more. "You couldn't imagine the depth of the fury that Mitch feels towards him... On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised if Trump is trying to give him a heart attack."
The basis of the enhanced animosity is McConnell's public refusal to buy into and promote Trump's Big Lie and McConnell refusing to back down-- the way McCarthy did-- when he said that "Trump’s 'wild falsehoods' about the outcome [of the election] were responsible for the January 6 riots at the Capitol. They have also split on policy this year. McConnell joined 18 fellow Senate Republicans in voting for a roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, despite Trump saying the deal 'makes the Republicans look weak, foolish, and dumb.' The feud between the two men threatens to splinter the party when Republicans could be building momentum in their bid to recapture control of Congress next year. As polls have shown Biden’s approval rating dipping below 50% this summer-- a troubling signal for Democrats’ political fortunes-- the two Republican septuagenarians remain divided over how to tilt the balance of a 50-50 Senate back toward their party."
Trump openly admits he thinks-- demands-- Senate Republicans should replace McConnell. "They ought to," Trump said. "I think he’s very bad for the Republican Party." Truth be told, McConnell is very bad for America-- as he's demonstrating now with his role in the GOP refusal to routinely lift the country's borrowing cap, which would lead to a government shutdown and potential default. But that kind of stuff has absolutely nothing to do with Trump's feud with McConnell... although, if he's smart, he can use it against him. Remember, McConnell consistently polls as the most disliked political leader in America. The voters hate him. In the newest YouGov poll for The Economist, registered voters were asked if they had a favorable of unfavorable view of McConnell. It was 20% favorable and a whopping 65% unfavorable. Even among Republicans, only 37% have a favorable opinion of him! By way of comparison, favorable/unfavorable for national leaders:
Yep, poor McConnell has the lowest favorability and the highest unfavorability. And that is consistent with years and years of polling. Nonetheless, Republican senators like him well enough to overlook the fact that they're being led by a universally preceived national villain and, as Bender and Wise put it, "his grip on the party’s 50 senators appeared steadfast. 'Naw, I’m not going to get in that fight,' said Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), one of Mr. Trump’s top allies in the Senate. McConnell, he added, 'is doing a good job.'"
McConnell has held on to his position by maintaining a high level of satisfaction among Senate Republicans even as retiring members repeatedly cite the diminishing chances for legislative accomplishment as a reason for quitting.
Political-action committees run by allies of McConnell-- including the Senate Leadership Fund, American Crossroads and various state-specific groups-- spent $462.5 million in helping to elect Republicans in 2020.
In the first six months of 2021, Trump stockpiled $102 million in political cash. He reported no donations to Republican campaigns during that time.
Sen. John Kennedy equated the former president’s odds of ousting McConnell to that of a donkey learning to fly.
“I just don’t realistically see that happening,” said Kennedy, a Republican facing re-election next year in Louisiana and one of Trump’s confidants in the Senate.
...Trump has spoken about what he views as his outsize influence on the Senate’s 2020 races and pointed to his endorsement as the reason at least 10 Republican contenders won their contests.
Many Republican strategists dispute that math and blame the former president for pivotal losses in the final two races. As Trump falsely identified widespread fraud as the reason for his defeat, depressed turnout cost Georgia Republicans a pair of runoffs-- and the Senate majority-- in January, they say.
Trump, meanwhile, has swiftly endorsed candidates in several races before the 2022 midterms, challenging McConnell and his team.
The main disagreement has been over the style of candidate best suited to pick off seats from Democrats. Trump has leaned on personal relationships and loyalty tests for most of his endorsements. In contrast, McConnell has looked to Republicans who have been vetted, with a demonstrated ability to win in their states.
In Georgia, Trump has backed Herschel Walker, a college football legend and close Trump family friend for a U.S. Senate seat. Republican strategists allied with McConnell privately worry that Walker might struggle to win over general-election voters because of allegations of domestic violence and business troubles, which he has denied.
In Arizona, McConnell’s team and the National Republican Senatorial Committee have tried to recruit Gov. Doug Ducey to take on Sen. Mark Kelly, the incumbent Democrat. Ducey has drawn Trump’s ire for not doing more to overturn Biden’s victory in the state and has declined to run.
The only primary so far featuring a direct Trump-McConnell showdown is in Alaska, where the former president has endorsed a bid from a former state agency head, Kelly Tshibaka, to unseat Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
This kind of dysfunctional and very typical Trump chaos could be good for the Democrats if the DSCC and Schumer eschew nominating lesser-of-two-evils hacks and instead allow bold progressives like Erica Smith (NC), Lucas Kunce (MO), Alan Grayson (FL), Morgan Harper (OH), John Fetterman (PA)... to represent the Democratic Party's actual values and aspirations. That's a big "if." I've included an interactive 2022 Senate thermometer on the left... in case you want to help any of the candidates-- or all of them. Just click the image and take it from there.