The growing rift between Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has led to the former president reportedly trying to recruit a challenger to take on the longtime Senate Republican leader. The Wall Street Journal says Trump is serious about trying to unseat McConnell from his leadership perch, and has been in talks with other members of the Republican Party to see if there is anyone willing to mount a challenge.
The WSJ writes that so far, Trump is not having much success finding someone willing to go toe-to-toe with the Kentucky Senator.
There is little appetite among Senate Republicans for such a plan, lawmakers and aides said, but the discussions risk driving a wedge deeper between the most influential figure in the Republican Party and its highest-ranking member in elected office.
The feud between the two threatens to divide the Republican Party just as it gears up to try and win back control of Congress in 2022. They’re split on policy issues. When McConnell joined 18 other Republicans in voting for a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill, Trump called it “stupid.”
But the root of Trump’s displeasure with McConnell has to do with the grudge he holds for McConnell acknowledging that Joe Biden won the 2020 election and blaming the January 6 Insurrection on Trump’s election fraud lies.
Trump, who declined to say if he was trying to recruit challengers for McConnell, recently said he hoped Republicans in the Senate would bounce the Kentucky power broker from the position he’s held for almost 15 years.
The feud poses risks to both men. Trump has somehow managed to convince a sizable portion of the Republican Party that the 2020 presidential election results were fraudulent (they were not). He also thinks he’s a kingmaker within the party, although the two special election losses in Georgia that cost the GOP control of the Senate would seem to dispute that notion. But if Trump challenges McConnell and fails to topple him, it could damage his standing.
McConnell may be a popular target for liberals on social media, but in Washington he’s held in high regard by most senators in the Republican wing.
More from the Journal:
Republican senators vote every two years on which members to elevate as leaders, and Mr. McConnell’s eighth term in the top spot—the longest-ever tenure for a Republican leader—doesn’t end until the next session of Congress in January 2023. The record for either party is held by Mike Mansfield of Montana, who was Democratic leader of the Senate for 16 years until he resigned in 1977.
Mr. McConnell has held on to his position by maintaining a high level of satisfaction among Senate Republicans even as retiring members repeatedly cite the diminishing chances for legislative accomplishment as a reason for quitting. However, McConnell is a savvy enough politician to know that a high-profile feud with Trump could turn the MAGA crowd against him and hurt Republicans' chances of winning back Congressional control next year.