On Thursday, in an interview with Punchbowl News, Mitch McConnell was asked about the prospect of being challenged for his leadership spot by Florida Sen. Rick Scott.
“The election occurs every two years,” McConnell responded. “I’m proud that I’ve been elected eight times without opposition. But I don’t own the job. And anybody in the conference can run who chooses to.”
In short, what McConnell said was this: Heck no, I’m not worried about Scott or anyone else taking my job as Senate Republican leader.
To be clear: Scott has not publicly signaled interest in taking on McConnell for that post. In fact, I think Scott is far more focused on running for president in 2024 – if Donald Trump takes a pass.
Speaking of Trump, it’s instructive to remember how utterly he has failed at recruiting someone to take on McConnell.
It’s been more than a year since Trump ripped into McConnell as a “dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack” (is that all?) and insisted that “if Republican Senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again.”
In the interim, Trump has not only continued to slam McConnell publicly, but has also worked to find someone within the GOP conference to take him on.
Last fall, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump had spoken with senators and allies about whether any Republicans were interested in challenging McConnell. And last month, Politico reported that Trump personally recruited Scott to run for Senate GOP leader.
But, those efforts haven’t amounted to much. While a few Republican Senate candidates – Eric Greitens in Missouri, Kelly Tshibaka in Alaska, Mo Brooks in Alabama – have said they would not support McConnell as leader if elected, there is virtually zero groundswell within the GOP conference to replace McConnell.
That’s largely because McConnell is utterly in touch with the wants and needs of his 49 colleagues. And if there is one place in the Republican Party where McConnell holds more sway than Trump, it’s in the Senate.
So, no, McConnell isn’t worried.
The Point: If Republicans retake the Senate, Mitch McConnell will be the Senate majority leader. Bank on it.