Trump-McConnell rift threatens GOP's Senate hopes

www.politico.com
5 min read
fairly difficult
Republicans need to pick up only one seat in next year's midterms to win back the majority, but the GOP could be mired in a protracted civil war over the former president's role in the party.
Following Trump's call for Republicans to move on from McConnell, POLITICO on Wednesday reached out to all 16 Republican senators running for reelection in 2022 to ask if they supported the Kentuckian as majority leader. Only two responded.

"Leader McConnell has my full support and confidence," Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican who drew Trump's ire and a primary threat after condemning the then-president's refusal to accept the election results, said in a statement to POLITICO. "No one understands the Senate better than he does."

Other Republicans, meanwhile, spent Wednesday decrying the conflict Trump had stoked the day before but did not criticize the former president, instead emphasizing his role in the GOP.

"If we get into personality squibbles and fights, we are going to be in a challenging place in 2022 and 2024 — which means America will be embracing socialism because we can't get our act together on the right," Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the other 2022 Republican to express support for McConnell as leader, said Wednesday on Fox News, adding that Trump is "the most powerful political figure on either side."

While no GOP senators have echoed Trump's attacks on McConnell, some are at least implicitly taking Trump's side.

"When you look at the polls, if you take a look at Republicans that voted for Trump, would they rather have Mitch McConnell or Donald Trump head of the party — it's not even a contest," Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) told conservative radio host Joe Pagliarulo this week.

McConnell, who voted to acquit Trump in the impeachment trial but lambasted his behavior surrounding the insurrection, has already threatened to wade into GOP primaries to fend off candidates he believes can't win in a general election. In response, Trump, deplatformed on Twitter, released a lengthy statement Tuesday bashing McConnell and claiming that Republicans who stick with him should be prepared to lose.

It's not an unfamiliar position for elected…
James Arkin, Andrew Desiderio, Alex Isenstadt
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