Following Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) remarks about Republicans having a better chance of flipping the House than the Senate in the midterm election, Trump took to social media to rebut those sentiments. On Thursday, Sen. McConnell’s comments on the Senate races were:
“I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate. Senate races are just different. They’re statewide. Candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome.”
Conservative reactions were mixed, some trying to cushion the landing of the grim predictions, like Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) stating McConnell was “trying to wake people up.” Others were not as forgiving, with Fox News host, Sean Hannity, accusing McConnell of being “content to leave them out to dry and fend for themselves,” speaking of Republican Senate candidates.
In a very Trumpian post, late Saturday, the former President expressed scathing criticism of Sen. McConnell, writing on Truth Social:
“Why do Republicans Senators allow a broken down hack politician, Mitch McConnell, to openly disparage hard working Republican candidates for the United States Senate. This is such an affront to honor and to leadership. He should spend more time (and money!) helping them get elected, and less time helping his crazy wife and family get rich on China!”
Trump and McConnell are both right. We do need more leadership from McConnell. Saying the quiet part out loud does disparage the candidates. McConnell, being pragmatic and concerning himself with things like “electability,” knows he has his work cut out for him ahead of November, and his Super PAC could be spread too thin.
As the playing field is almost set, Republicans are beginning to pick their battles on where to put the Benjamins. The McConnell-affiliated Senate Leadership Fund has $150 million slated for ad buys for the fall. Trump’s Save America PAC controls over $100 million. Meanwhile, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has canceled $13.5 million in ad spending since Aug 1, causing concern among GOP strategists. According to the ad tracking service AdImpact, the cuts included Pennsylvania ($7.5 million), Arizona ($3.5 million), Wisconsin ($2.5 million), and Nevada ($1.5 million).
It appears that McConnell’s comment on “candidate quality” might be squarely aimed at the Trump-nods, soliciting the visceral Trump social media response. While the Trump endorsement has proven valuable in the primary, his influence on the general electorate post-presidency is yet to be demonstrated. GOP candidates in key races are trailing in the polls and fundraising, causing more spending needed to fend off Dems in states considered less competitive.
The Senate Leadership Fund just reserved $28 million in TV advertising to prop up J.D. Vance in Ohio, a seat many Republicans thought to be safe in a state Trump won by eight points in 2020. Trump-endorsed Senate nominees are struggling in much more competitive states than Ohio, such as Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and Herschel Walker in Georgia. The Senate Leadership Fund has reserved $37.1 million in airtime for Walker’s GA race.
Trump-backed Blake Masters won his AZ primary two weeks ago and is now trailing his incumbent opponent, Sen Mark Kelly (D), by eight points. Masters has changed his whole tune on McConnell, from once wanting to oust him from Senate leadership to now being hopeful his Super-PAC can help, especially since Arizona was one of the NRSC ad-cut states, losing out on 3.5 million.
Both Trump and McConnell are in control of hundreds of millions of dollars in political advertising, thus they get to complain out loud about whatever they want to, even each other. Candidates like Walker and Masters strike the right cadence, playing ball with Trump and McConnell while putting aside political and personal differences in hopes of swinging the Senate right in November.