“I don’t own this job. Anybody who wants to run for it can feel free to do so,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday. “I’m not in any way offended by having an opponent or having a few votes in opposition.”
Also Wednesday, Senate Republicans voted 37-10 to keep McConnell as leader.
With the Georgia Senate contest pending, Democrats hold 50 Senate seats to the GOP’s 49. There was no red-wave takeover that tipped the upper house to the right, as conservatives had expected.
For that, Florida GOP Sen. Rick Scott apparently places the blame on McConnell. Not himself, even though Scott is the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is supposed to deliver more GOP candidates to the Senate.
Putting the onus on McConnell, who has served as leader for 15 years, also glosses over the fact that multiple Senate candidates endorsed by former President Donald Trump lost in the general election. A New York Times analysis estimated that Trump’s endorsement cost Senate hopefuls five points.
Only the die-hard Trump base — and those on payroll — could see Trump’s candidacy as good for the country, or the GOP.
McConnell is in a sweet spot right now. Yes, he angered the GOP base in August when he said the House was more likely to flip than the Senate because “Senate races are just different — they’re statewide, candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome.”
(McConnell was simply stating the obvious — more moderate candidates tend to prevail in statewide races than House districts.)
In a letter to the Senate Republican Conference, Scott had argued, “I believe voters want a plan. They are begging us to tell them what we will do when we are in charge.”
Problem: The GOP is not in charge. The base may love the myth that if you don’t bend, you get more of what you want, but that only works when you have majorities — not when Democrats control the White House and Senate.
For his part, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley has blamed McConnell for not bankrolling the campaigns of the likes of Blake Masters, who failed to oust Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz.
“I did not agree with the decision to bad-mouth our candidates in the middle of the campaign, I did not agree with the decision to leave Blake Masters for dead in Arizona,” Hawley told RealClearPolitics, in a reference to McConnell’s comment about candidate quality.
Be it noted, Masters would not commit to voting to retain McConnell as leader if he won — even though McConnell, with his decision not to vote on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, is the reason there are six Republican-picked justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.
There’s a split in the GOP. It’s not between bold, resolute right-wingers and squishy conservatives. It’s between snake-oil peddlers — like Scott and Hawley — and political pros who understand that hardcore ideologues aren’t likely to win in blue or purple states.