Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s ongoing feud with former President Donald Trump appears to be affecting his political leadership and judgment, as evidenced by remarks he made earlier this week.
During an event in his home state, the Kentucky Republican was asked his thoughts about several Senate candidates backed by the former president and their chances of pulling off victories during the upcoming midterms.
McConnell’s responses were less than enthusiastic, to say the least.
“I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate. Senate races are just different — they’re statewide, candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome,” McConnell said when asked about his expectations for the midterms during an event in Kentucky, according to NBC News.
“Right now, we have a 50-50 Senate and a 50-50 country, but I think when all is said and done this fall, we’re likely to have an extremely close Senate, either our side up slightly or their side up slightly,” he added.
The remark about “candidate quality” especially drew ire, as it appeared to many to be an offhanded critique of candidates backed by the former president.
“Democrats are painting Republican Senate candidates in upcoming elections and midterms as cruel and out of touch,” Fox News’ Sean Hannity said Friday.
“Well, apparently Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is content to leave them out to dry and fend for themselves. Listen to these comments, they’re very encouraging,” Hannity said sarcastically before playing a clip of McConnell explaining his predictions, The Hill reported.
“You don’t hear [Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)] complaining about candidate quality in Pennsylvania,” Hannity continued, referring to far-left candidate John Fetterman. “How about you get out there, Mitch, and fight for your team? What’s your agenda, Mitch, or would you rather just sit by and watch helplessly as Democrats lie to your face, pass another $500 billion green energy boondoggle?”
Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist, also ripped McConnell while noting several conservative politicos have remarked to her privately they are upset by McConnell’s stance.
In a Friday column, titled, “Come On, Mitch McConnell, Republicans Need You To Step Up And Lead,” Hemingway writes that as the party’s leader in the upper chamber, he “has an obligation to immediately and dramatically improve his performance.”
Referring to McConnell’s comments, she asked in the column: “What was McConnell thinking? What in the world was he thinking?”
Unnecessarily ceding an incredibly winnable Senate to Democrats three months before an election is a great example of the leadership choices that have led McConnell to be the least popular national politician in the country, according to the RealClearPolitics average. And it’s a good example of why so many Republicans — grateful as they may be for his successes — think it’s time for new leadership.
Still, for the time being, McConnell is the top elected Republican, and he has an obligation to effectively lead the Republican team, respecting the voters and who they have chosen.
In this case, having a nearly opposite response about Republican prospects rather than the pouty and clinical one McConnell offered would have been strategically and politically wise. It also would have matched much more with the reality of the political environment.
Hemingway went on to list several reasons why Republicans are in much better shape, politically, than Democrats after the party has had complete control over all levers of lawmaking and policymaking for 18 months, being in control of the White House and Congress. During that time, inflation has soared, leading to higher food, gasoline, energy, housing, and other costs while the U.S.-Mexico border has seen record levels of human- and drug-smuggling, along with historic numbers of overdose deaths.
“Consumer confidence has cratered. War with nuclear powers is dangerously close in at least two parts of the world. The economy should be roaring out of the pandemic, but it’s returned to Obama-era sluggishness or worse. Woke mobs are completing their destruction of the country’s institutions. Democrats are persecuting political opponents with their deeply unpopular J6 star chamber,” she wrote.
Hemingway went on to note in a series of tweets related to her column that one “political bigwig” whom she did not name had this to say about McConnell’s remarks: “He’s a child having a temper tantrum. It is completely insane for him to criticize our candidates. He can’t step up and lead, clearly, but we need him to shut up.”
I'm laughing that yesterday all the DC political media types were dunking on me for criticizing his indefensibly stupid statement but something close to 100% of the response to this piece I've gotten from randos and senators alike is "you are way too nice and kind to him." LOL.
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) August 19, 2022
“I’m laughing that yesterday all the DC political media types were dunking on me for criticizing his indefensibly stupid statement but something close to 100% of the response to this piece I’ve gotten from randos and senators alike is ‘you are way too nice and kind to him.’ LOL,” she added.