There’s an effort afoot to delay the Senate Republican leadership elections set for this week as a way to buy time for the opposition within the party to Mitch McConnell’s ongoing stewardship to coalesce.
That movement is spearheaded by the likes of National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman Rick Scott, who repeatedly clashed with McConnell over midterm strategy, and Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, who tweeted over the weekend: “The old party is dead. Time to bury it. Build something new.”
It’s also being egged on from the outside by former President Donald Trump, who has long opined that it’s time for a change atop the Republican Party in the Senate.
“It’s Mitch McConnell’s fault,” Trump wrote in a post on his Truth Social website after Democrats secured control of the Senate. “He blew the midterms, and everyone despises him.”
Two of Trump’s most loyal acolytes in the Senate – Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham – are also pushing for the leadership election to be delayed until after the December 6 runoff in Georgia between Republican Herschel Walker and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.
On his podcast on Monday, Cruz talked about the decision from the McConnell-aligned super PAC Senate Leadership Fund to pull ads from the Arizona Senate race, where Republican Blake Masters said he would not support McConnell as Senate GOP leader. Masters lost to Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly.
“Mitch would rather be leader than have a Republican majority,” Cruz said. “If there’s a Republican who can win who’s not going to support Mitch, the truth of the matter is he’d rather the Democrat win.”
And Graham said via Twitter: “All Republicans should be focused on winning in Georgia and trying to understand the midterm elections before Senate leadership elections or moving on to the 2024 presidential race.”
Which makes some sense – unless, of course, you consider that Graham’s best buddy, Trump, is expected to announce another presidential bid on Tuesday.
But, I digress.
All of this action might make you think that McConnell is actually in trouble. But you would think wrong.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton explained why during an interview with CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that aired Sunday.
“The great wrestling champion Ric Flair used to say, ‘To be the man, you got to beat the man,’” said Cotton. “And so far, no one has had the nerve to step forward and challenge Sen. McConnell.”
Which pretty much nails it. (Extra points the Ric Flair reference. Woooooooo!)
The simple fact it that there is no one within the Senate Republican conference who could come close to putting together the votes to beat McConnell. Scott wouldn’t rule out challenging McConnell when pressed. But it’s extremely hard to see how the Florida Republican could make the case that it is McConnell’s time to step off the stage.
After all, McConnell’s super PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, was a massive spender in virtually every critical Senate race in the country – boosting GOP candidates who struggled to keep up the fundraising pace set by their Democratic opponents. And it is McConnell who assiduously monitors the state of his conference to ensure that his members are kept happy.
There simply isn’t anyone who would even have a puncher’s chance of beating McConnell in a leadership election, unless something drastic changes – and soon. (And even then, it’s hard to see what would happen to change how McConnell is regarded by the majority of his Republican colleagues.)
All of this talk of delaying leadership election, then, is sound and fury signifying not much. If the vote is held this week, McConnell will likely win. But if the vote is held a month from now, McConnell is also extremely likely to win then, too.
This story has been updated with additional information.