Why Don’t GOP Senate Candidates Say They Support Mitch McConnell?

“I look forward to being in the United States Senate and [am] happy to make this decision for the next leader of the United States Senate … it will be Republican,” says Oz, not answering the question. Pressed for an answer, Oz declined to give one.

What is interesting ! Because Oz is far from alone among Republican Senate hopefuls who are unwilling to show their loyalty to McConnell if the GOP ends up taking control of the Senate in the midterm elections.

“When I defeat Murkowski and become the next U.S. Senator from Alaska, I will not be supporting Mitch McConnell as leader. It’s time for new America-first leadership in the Senate,” Kelly said. Tshibaka, a Republican who is among the candidates facing GOP Senator Lisa. Murkowski, said last year.
Blake Masters, Republican Senate candidate from Arizona said in a debate earlier this year that McConnell is “not bad at everything. He’s good at judges. He’s good at blocking Democrats. You know what he’s not good at? Legislating.”
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who is the GOP nominee for the open state Senate seat, said of McConnell last summer: “Mitch McConnell didn’t approve of me and I don’t approve of him for leadership.”
And Ohio GOP Senate candidate JD Vance has already said McConnell is “a bit out of touch with the grassroots” and that there is a need for “new blood” in the Republican leadership ranks.

All of this raises an important question: If the Republicans win a majority in the Senate, will McConnell have the votes to be elected to lead them?

Which is, yes, a bit like putting the cart before the horse. Right now, the fight for control of the Senate is widely seen as a toss-up, with Democrats seen as having the advantage in terms of money and the quality of candidates. And if the likes of Oz, Masters and Vance don’t make it to the Senate, it doesn’t matter if they voted for McConnell as leader or not.

But if these candidates end up winning, they will be forced to confront their past statements about McConnell.

And, of course, there is Donald Trump. The former president has made no secret of his dislike of McConnell and openly campaigned for another Republican to take him as leader. But so far, there have been no takers.

Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who heads the Senate GOP campaign committee, has clashed with McConnell several times — first over his decision to release a policy plan outlining what Republicans would do if they won the majority and, more recently, on McConnell’s comments that “candidate quality” is hampering the party’s chances.
In a editorial published in the Washington Examiner last week, Scott seemed to speak directly to McConnell.

“Unfortunately, many of the same people responsible for the loss of the Senate in the last cycle are now trying to keep us from winning a majority this time around by bashing our Republican nominees,” Scott wrote. “It’s an act of incredible cowardice, and ultimately, it’s a betrayal of the Conservative cause.”

My strong feeling is that despite all the talk of their differences with McConnell, the likes of Oz, Masters and Vance would find a way to vote for him as Majority Leader if faced with the opportunity in early 2023 . Why ? For two main reasons:

1) Much of what they did (and do) is political posturing. Trump doesn’t like McConnell. So, especially in their primaries, these candidates had to keep the MAGA crowd happy – and hesitating to back McConnell was one way to do that. Now that they are appointed by the party, you already see some of them sneaking up on McConnell.

2) It is not clear that they would have other options. Scott seems much more focused on running for president than running for Senate Republican leader. And other Senate Republicans who have a constituency in the conference — like, say, John Thune of South Dakota — aren’t going to challenge McConnell.

So, at the end of the day, this is all probably just political posturing. But McConnell, always the deliberate and cautious political tactician, is probably taking no chances.

About Jimmie T.

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