Opinion: McConnell just made the 2022 election over Trump’s political future

“I think there’s probably a better chance of the House rocking 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. “The quality of the candidate has a lot to do with the result.”

It wasn’t just an acknowledgment of the GOP’s challenges in trying to regain control of the equally divided chamber. It was also a shrewd way for McConnell to put former President Donald Trump’s political future on the November ballot. And given current polls, the outlook for Trump and some of his hand-picked Senate nominees in key battleground states looks bleaker than some prognosticators might have predicted.
Many rightly viewed McConnell’s comments as a dig at Trump for his very public support for several flawed Senate candidates in the GOP primaries who are now trailing in the polls. It also explains why Trump’s staunch media ally, Sean Hannity, used his Friday night Fox News show to slam McConnell for his comments.
First, Hannity criticized McConnell for having no “agenda” and allegedly leaving Trump candidates “dry and fending for themselves”.

But then the Fox News host explained what he thought was the real problem with the GOP leader’s remarks to the Senate: “Maybe Mitch McConnell hates Donald Trump so much that he would probably prefer to see the candidates approved by Trump losing because he thinks it might hurt Donald Trump?”

Bingo! Hannity has finally achieved something. Trump’s Senate picks flounder and McConnell throws the blame on the former president’s door.

And if those Senate candidates were to lose in the swing states, it would likely harm Trump politically as he prepares for a possible GOP presidential bid in 2024. After all, if Trump goes all-in for those Senate candidates in 2022 and they are rejected in the battleground states, his influence within the party will be significantly weakened.
It’s no secret that McConnell and Trump aren’t best friends. McConnell did not vote to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial for his role in instigating the January 6, 2021 attack on our Capitol. The Senate GOP leader, however, gave a fiery speech on the floor of the chamber after the impeachment vote in which he said, “Former President Trump’s actions before the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty.” . McConnell added, “There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for bringing about the events of that day.”
What Democrats Could Learn From Mitch McConnell
Trump returned the love soon after when he openly urged Senate Republicans last year to depose McConnell as GOP leader. Trump even went so far as to try to recruit Senate candidates who would support him in this effort.

For his part, McConnell is unlikely to hope that every Trump-backed Senate candidate will lose. The Kentucky senator is a living, breathing political machine who understands that only if his party controls the Senate can he set the agenda in this chamber — from his legislative goals to confirmations from federal judges and Supreme Court justices.

Still, there’s no doubt that some of Trump’s hand-picked candidates for the Senate are struggling, 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 Trump’s champion television personality, Dr. Mehmet Oz, the GOP nominee for the Pennsylvania Senate. It was no secret that Oz had lived mostly in New Jersey for three decades before moving to Pennsylvania in late 2020.
While Oz Stirs Up Fear, Fetterman Makes Us Laugh
And as expected, Oz Democratic opponent John Fetterman made it a central issue, even posting comic videos by famous Jerseyites such as Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” and Steven Van Zandt – one of the stars of “The Sopranos” and part of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band – carrying forward the message that Oz is a Jersey guy, not a real Pennsylvanian. This helps explain why Oz trailed Fetterman by 11 points in a July Fox News poll.
Another famous GOP Senate candidate that Trump has championed, Herschel walker, encounters difficulties in Georgia. The great footballer was besieged by a series of scandals, among them: falsely claiming that he had worked in law enforcement, exaggerating his professional and academic records, and failing to tell even his top aides the children he fathered outside of his marriage. A recent Fox News poll has Walker trailing Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock by 4 points in a state 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 has followed his incumbent Democratic opponent, Senator Mark Kelly, by 8 points in a recent poll. Biden won the state by less than 1 percentage point in 2020.
Although some die-hard Trump supporters probably don’t care how Trump’s Senate nominees perform, a July New York Times poll found that only 49% of Republicans want Trump to be the party’s presidential flag bearer in 2024.
Since many Republicans resemble McConnell in that their priority nominates an “eligible” candidate, the defeat of Trump-backed candidates in battleground states may well diminish Trump’s chances of being the GOP presidential nominee in 2024.

Few things would likely make McConnell happier.

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