Mitch McConnell is completely devoted to winning elections, and it has always been that way. Every action he makes and every word he speaks is part of a larger strategy to ensure that his team has more seats — and thus more control — than the other guys.
McConnell also stated on Tuesday that he feels that President Donald Trump’s continued focus on the 2020 race is hurting the GOP’s chances in the 2022 midterm elections.
When asked by CNN’s Manu Raju if he was OK with candidates endorsing Trump, McConnell said:
“I do think we need to be thinking about the future and not the past. I think the American people are focusing on this administration, what it’s doing to the country, and it’s my hope the ’22 election will be a referendum on the performance of the current administration, not a rehash of suggestions about what may have happened in 2020.”
That’s as near to an unequivocal denial of Trump and his strategy as McConnell will get a laser-like focus on establishing (nonexistent) voting fraud in the 2020 election.
While Trump has been trying to re-litigate the 2020 election for months, he took it to a new level last week when he said that future elections would be meaningless unless the 2016 election was reversed.
“If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in ’22 or ’24, Trump said in a statement via his Save America PAC. “It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do.”
That statement brought back bad memories for Republicans in Georgia, where they lost not one, but two Senate seats earlier this year because Trump (and several of his closest allies) were almost entirely focused on the 2020 election, to the detriment of the two Senate runoffs, which shifted McConnell’s position from majority leader to minority leader.
McConnell’s warning comes just days after Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson warned that “re-litigating 2020 is a recipe for disaster in 2022.”
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Of course, this is correct. Midterm elections in a president’s first term have historically been terrible for his party, owing to the fact that they serve as a referendum on the first two years of the president’s term. In 2018, Trump lost 40 Republican seats, and thus the majority, in the House of Representatives. In 2010, Barack Obama lost 63 seats and the majority of the House of Representatives.
The intention of McConnell (and other party strategists) to make the 2022 midterms completely about Joe Biden and his performance in office is complicated by Trump’s continuous posturing about the 2020 election. This is absurd, given that Biden’s job approval rating is stuck in the low to mid-40s, which is a dangerous zone for Democrats seeking to win reelection in November.
The issue for McConnell (and all Republicans) is that Trump has demonstrated no inclination to do what is best for the party rather than what is best for him. He’s also slammed McConnell, calling him the “most overrated man in politics” and other derogatory terms.
Given this, as well as Trump’s continued appeal among the GOP’s base, it will be difficult for McConnell to persuade the GOP and its candidates to focus on the future rather than the past.
Much is dependent on Trump’s whims. And if the history is any indication, McConnell could be in trouble.