“Loser” winning.

  • Taking on McConnell risks not only triggering his wrath in the Capitol but making candidate-critics vulnerable to targeting by his ample supply of campaign cash.
  • The challengers have been emboldened as Donald Trump has lambasted McConnell — giving them both political and financial cover.
  • “What is wrong with this Broken Old Crow?” the former president said in a statement tweeted by his spokesperson on Sunday. “He’s hurting the Republican Senators and the Republican Party. When will they vote him out of Leadership?”
  • “It’s time for new, America First leadership in the Senate,” she said, echoing a Trump theme.
  • Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, running to fill Sen. Roy Blunt’s (R-Mo.) upcoming vacant seat, made a similar pledge in September.
  • Cheung said research from GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio’s team indicated that “in the primary, if you’re anti-Mitch, your numbers go up.”
  • “It’s a test for how Trumpian you are.”
  • McConnell gave Trump political cover for much of his presidency, with his wife, Elaine Chao, serving in the Cabinet as Transportation secretary.
  • The two had a falling out after McConnell criticized Trump for challenging the 2020 election results.
  • “In Washington, he’s known as the nastiest old woman in town,” Carlson said on his show last week during a segment about Bob Dole’s funeral.
  • “This is hardly the first time McConnell has done something vicious like this, but we thought going forward we would start telling you about it, because why wouldn’t we?”
  • A national Republican consultant working on House and Senate races told Axios: “I don’t think there is anyone, with the possible exception of Trump, who can do more damage to your credibility with GOP voters than Tucker.”
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” said: “I don’t like that a lot. … What we did is promised one thing and delivered another.”
  • Graham then fired a warning shot: “If we’re going to be successful in 2022, we’re going to have to work together as a team. And here’s what I would say to every Republican: If you want to be … a Republican leader in the House or the Senate, and you don’t have a working relationship with Donald Trump, you cannot be effective. So, I hope we’ll get on the same page here.”
  • The idea that Mitch McConnell is a productive primary issue for right-wing or Trumpian challengers is a stretch. He’s a distant rallying cry. And he was instrumental in getting much of what Trump wanted done, done.
  • The idea that McConnell will be deposed by, say, Rick Scott (R-FL) or John Cornyn (R-TX) is fanciful. They don’t have the votes and no one wants to take a vote that McConnell might (and almost certainly would) win.
  • The idea that GOP fund-raisers are disgruntled and eager to depose McConnell is nonsense. There are, obviously, some that are. There are many, many more who are not. Fund-raising for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and McConnell’s personal PAC is humming along at a record pace.
  • Trump’s jihad is problematic for McConnell, but fails on two fronts. First, McConnell was re-elected in 2020, so he has (roughly) five remaining years of immunity from primary challenge and, according to those close to him, is unlikely to seek re-election in 2026 anyway. So he’s at least partially free of intra-party crossfire. Second, McConnell’s Senate colleagues are not keen on the idea that Trump decides who their leader is or should be. That’s their decision, not Trump’s. Pushing back, silently, is what virtually all of them have decided to do. Obviously, this works to McConnell’s advantage.
  • The big problem is Fox. Fox can get the base all worked up. Fox “issues” can (and do) become talk radio “issues,” right-wing internet “issues,” Telegram chat room “issues.” An anti-McConnell tune can quickly become a chorus if all of the right-wing voices harmonize. At Fox, no one has a more devoted following on the outer banks of Trumpian populism than Tucker Carlson. So the fact that Carlson was alerting “the base” to the future attraction of an anti-McConnell jihad was indeed a problem; one that required immediate attention.

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John Ellis

John Ellis

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Founder and Editor, News Items. Political analyst. Founder of and contributing editor to Bird News Items. Former columnist for The Boston Globe.