“I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate,” McConnell said at a Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Florence, Kentucky.
“Senate races are just different. They’re statewide,” he added. “Candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome.”
First, Hannity criticized McConnell
for failing to have an “agenda” and allegedly leaving Trump’s candidates “out to dry and fend for themselves.”
But then the Fox News host laid out what he thought was the real problem with the GOP Senate leader’s remarks: “Maybe Mitch McConnell hates Donald Trump so much that he would probably rather see Trump-endorsed candidates lose, because he thinks that might hurt Donald Trump?”
Bingo! Hannity finally got something right. Trump’s Senate picks are floundering, and McConnell is laying the blame at the former President’s door.
And if those Senate candidates were to lose in swing states, it would likely hurt Trump politically as he gears up for a possible 2024 GOP presidential bid.
After all, if Trump goes all in for these Senate candidates in 2022 and they are rejected in battleground states, his clout within the party will be substantially weakened.
It’s no secret McConnell and Trump are not BFFs. McConnell did not vote to convict
Trump during his second impeachment trial over his role in inciting the January 6, 2021, attack on our Capitol. The Senate GOP leader did, however, deliver a fiery speech on the chamber floor after the impeachment vote in which he declared
, “Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty.” McConnell added, “There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day.”
Trump returned the love shortly afterward when he openly urged Senate Republicans
last year to depose McConnell as GOP leader. Trump even went as far as trying to recruit
Senate candidates who would back him in that effort.
For his part, it’s unlikely that McConnell is hoping that all the Trump-backed Senate candidates lose. The senator from Kentucky is a living, breathing political machine who understands that only if his party controls the Senate can he set the agenda in that chamber — from its legislative goals to confirmations of federal judges and Supreme Court justices.
Still, there’s no disputing that some of Trump’s hand-picked candidates for Senate are flailing, and McConnell apparently wants Republican voters to know who to blame if the GOP doesn’t win the Senate: Donald J. Trump.
For starters, there’s the Trump-championed television personality, Dr. Mehmet Oz
, the GOP Senate nominee in Pennsylvania. It was no secret Oz had lived primarily in New Jersey for three decades
before moving to Pennsylvania
in late 2020.
And as expected, Oz’s Democratic opponent, John Fetterman, has made that a central issue, even releasing comedic videos
by famed Jerseyites such as Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi from MTV’s “Jersey Shore” and Steven Van Zandt — one of the stars of “The Sopranos” and a part of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band — furthering the message that Oz is a Jersey guy, not a true Pennsylvanian. This helps explain why Oz was trailing Fetterman by a whopping 11 points
in a July Fox News poll.
Another celebrity GOP Senate candidate Trump championed, Herschel Walker
, is facing difficulties in Georgia. The football great has been besieged by a series of scandals
, among them: falsely claiming
he had worked in law enforcement, exaggerating
his business and academic records, and failing to tell even his top aides about children he had fathered
outside his marriage. A recent Fox News poll has Walker trailing Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock by 4 points
in a state that President Joe Biden won in 2020 by 0.3%
We see a similar story with other Trump-backed Senate candidates in key battleground states such as Arizona, where Blake Masters trailed his Democratic opponent incumbent, Sen. Mark Kelly, by 8 points in a recent poll
. Biden won the state
by less than 1 percentage point in 2020.
While some die-hard Trump supporters are unlikely to care how Trump’s Senate candidates perform, a July New York Times poll
found only 49% of Republicans want Trump to be the party’s 2024 presidential standard-bearer.
Given many Republicans are like McConnell in that their top priority
is nominating a contender who is “electable,” the defeat of Trump-backed candidates in battleground states may well diminish Trump’s prospects to be the GOP’s 2024 presidential nominee.
Few things would likely make McConnell happier.