by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Opposition to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is quickly becoming an issue in Republican primaries as insurgent conservatives jockey for advantage.
This week, Alaska’s Kelly Tshibaka became at least the fourth Republican Senate contender to announce she would not support McConnell for leader if she defeats incumbent GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski and wins a Senate seat in 2022. Kelly has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, who has been imploring Senate Republicans to oust McConnell. Her opposition to the minority leader follows the well-worn path of other Republicans backed by Trump or hoping to win his endorsement.
“It’s time for new, America First leadership in the Senate,” Tshibaka said in a statement. In a subsequent interview with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon on his War Room podcast, Tshibaka blamed McConnell for enabling President Joe Biden and policies she characterized as anti-American.
“Mitch McConnell thinks we’re stupid,” she said. “He’s anything but a leader.”
With that announcement, Kelly joined three other Republican contenders who have declared they will oppose McConnell, 79, for leader of the GOP conference if they are elected to the Senate in the midterm elections: in Alabama, Rep. Mo Brooks, who has been endorsed by Trump, and in Missouri and Oklahoma, respectively, former Gov. Eric Greitens and businessman Jackson Lahmeyer, both of whom hope to score an endorsement from the former president.
If securing Trump’s support is the goal in a competitive primary, opposing McConnell is not necessarily a bad move. The former president issues frequent statements criticizing McConnell for not being tougher on Biden. But Trump’s real beef with the Senate minority leader involves the 2020 election.
Trump turned on McConnell because the Kentucky Republican would not support his claims that the presidential election was stolen.