by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Editors at National Review Online urge readers to avoid blaming Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell for the party’s performance in 2022 midterm elections.
Election defeats naturally create circular firing squads, but the last few days have seen a more directed effort to put Minority Leader Mitch McConnell against a wall and shoot him at dawn.
The MAGA forces in the party, eager to deflect blame from Donald Trump for the failure to take the Senate, are pointing fingers at McConnell. Trump himself wrote on his Truth Social network, “It’s Mitch McConnell’s fault.” Meanwhile, there is agitation in the caucus to delay this week’s scheduled leadership vote in the hopes that some viable alternative to McConnell will emerge.
There are legitimate criticisms of McConnell, who retains the support of the lion’s share of his caucus, but most of the case against him is malicious and ill-conceived.
His critics complain about his spending choices in the election. The context here is a historic fundraising effort that, all told, poured roughly $360 million into the midterms. Even at that level of spending, choices have to be made. The main McConnell group, the Senate Leadership Fund (SLF), didn’t pony up for Blake Masters in Arizona and pulled out of New Hampshire, where it looked, briefly, as if Don Bolduc had a chance against Democrat incumbent Maggie Hassan.
These decisions are certainly defensible. The polling that had Bolduc close was wrong, and the SLF was correct to believe its own numbers that showed him further behind. He ended up losing by 9 points. If nearly $60 million of spending in Pennsylvania by the SLF and associated groups didn’t get Mehmet Oz over the top, no amount of resources was rescuing Bolduc — who was more associated with “stop the steal” and ran a lackluster campaign.
Masters was also a flawed candidate and is projected to lose.