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A battle royale is shaping up in the GOP Senate primaries for 2022. It is a battle that perhaps was unavoidable no matter the outcome of the 2020 election but made inevitable by Joe Biden being declared president.
Historically, Mitch McConnell has acted as the gatekeeper for GOP Senate nominations. Without McConnell’s blessing, you would find the institutional GOP arrayed against you in the primary and, despite all his mewling about “electable,” McConnell has shown himself to be willing to lose a Senate race to stomp down on any ideas the lumpenproletariat may have about choosing a candidate themselves. McConnell’s most infamous case was using the National Republican Senatorial Campaign to defeat a very popular Chris McDaniel in favor of an adulterous and pre-taxidermied Thad Cochran because McDaniel was a Tea Party candidate who bucked the system.
Over the past four years, though, some things changed somewhat. President Trump, probably more than any Republican president in my lifetime, took an active interest in electing GOP candidates to the House and Senate. To all appearances, Trump sees himself as the leader of a movement and definitely wants a voice in the selection of the next generation of GOP leadership.
The conflict comes in as McConnell never liked Trump. He’s made no bones about being glad to see Trump gone. He doesn’t like Trump voters. He definitely doesn’t want Trump voters to have any role in choosing candidates…because, you know, there is nothing like a unified GOP base behind a candidate to make them “unelectable.” Since the election, and particularly since the obscene impeachment spectacle, the men have been publicly brawling to the point where Lindsey f-ing Graham has had to step in.
Not that long ago, McConnell asserted that he would do what he had to do to keep Trump loyalists from winning.
McConnell is the de facto leader of the GOP for at least the next two years, as Trump remains exiled in Florida with no real public platform. And though McConnell is done talking about the former president after giving his most critical remarks ever about Trump on Saturday, he’s well aware that they may be on a collision course.
McConnell needs to pick up just one Senate seat to become majority leader again, though he’s facing perhaps even bigger political headaches than in the Tea Party era. But McConnell made clear in a Saturday evening interview that he will not hesitate to wade into future primary races if a Trump-backed candidate — like, say, Kelli Ward in Arizona or the former president’s daughter-in-law Lara in North Carolina — threatens his bid to retake the majority.
“My goal is, in every way possible, to have nominees representing the Republican Party who can win in November,” McConnell said by telephone. “Some of them may be people the former president likes. Some of them may not be. The only thing I care about is electability.”
The Kentuckian made clear that “I’m not predicting the president would support people who couldn’t win. But I do think electability — not who supports who — is the critical point.”
McConnell has defended Cheney and on Saturday even indicated he may even get involved in her reelection campaign.
“The future of the party will be determined in places like Wyoming in ‘22,” McConnell said.
Likewise, President Trump is letting it be known that he will be on the hustings boosting “MAGA” candidates.
Mitch is a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack, and if Republican Senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again. He will never do what needs to be done, or what is right for our Country. Where necessary and appropriate, I will back primary rivals who espouse Making America Great Again and our policy of America First. We want brilliant, strong, thoughtful, and compassionate leadership,
The Republican Party can never again be respected or strong with political ‘leaders’ like Sen. Mitch McConnell at its helm. He is destroying the Republican side of the Senate, and in so doing, seriously hurting our Country…He doesn’t have what it takes, never did, and never will.
In a lot of ways, this fight is long overdue. We nearly had it in 2010, but the Tea Party was without real leadership, and those who put themselves forward as leaders were mostly grifters. With Trump’s star power, we have the ability to elect conservatives, not of the Conservative, Inc., variety. We also have the ability to pare away a lot of deadwood and replace it with, at least, new deadwood that is not beholden to McConnell.
This is not a battle we should shy away from. One thing the GOP establishment and McConnell have conclusively proven is that their idea of “electable” doesn’t mean anyone will actually vote for their candidate. In the end, McConnell will come around. He may loathe Trump and us, but he likes being Majority Leader more than he hates uppity working-class Americans. If Trump shows he can mobilize voters, McConnell will wiggle his wattle, cluck disapprovingly and welcome the vote of the new MAGA senator to make him Majority Leader.