OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made a gesture of support for some GOP Senate candidates backed by former President Donald Trump after appearing to smear them last week.
The Kentucky GOP leader hosted a fundraiser on Friday in key battleground states after appearing to complain about the “quality” of the candidates during an event in his state.
According to ABC News, Herschel Walker, running for Senate in Georgia, Dr. Mehmet Oz, a Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, and Rep. Ted Budd, running for Senate in North Carolina attended the event, which McConnell held in Louisville, Ky., a source familiar with it told the outlet.
The network reported that the same source said the event had been organized in June, well before McConnell made his remarks.
In remarks last week, McConnell appeared to suggest that some of the candidates endorsed by the former president, with whom he has had a turbulent relationship, would make it more difficult for Republicans to retake the evenly divided upper chamber.
“I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate,” McConnell said at a Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Florence, Kentucky, last week. “Candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome.”
“Right now, we have a 50-50 Senate and a 50-50 country, but I think when all is said and done this fall, we’re likely to have an extremely close Senate, either our side up slightly or their side up slightly,” he added at an event in his home state, per The Hill.
The comments spurred negative reactions from a host of Republicans and conservatives including Trump himself.
“Mitch McConnell is not an Opposition Leader, he is a pawn for the Democrats to get whatever they want. He is afraid of them, and will not do what has to be done. A new Republican Leader in the Senate should be picked immediately!” Trump said in a statement last week, according to ABC News which added:
Trump and McConnell have at times been at odds during the midterm election season as Trump continued to assert his powers over the Republican party, endorsing candidates up and down the ballot.
While McConnell and Trump aligned on Senate candidates in Georgia and Nevada, the two are in a standoff in Alaska’s Senate race.
McConnell’s super PAC has backed Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska — who voted to convict Trump during his second impeachment trial — in her reelection bid against Trump-endorsed candidate Kelly Tshibaka.
Others criticized McConnell over his ‘quality’ remarks as well.
In a column titled, “Come On, Mitch McConnell, Republicans Need You To Step Up And Lead,” The Federalist senior editor Mollie Hemingway wrote that as the party’s leader in the upper chamber, he “has an obligation to immediately and dramatically improve his performance” — namely, get out front now and work to get all Senate GOP candidates elected, especially during a midterm where President Joe Biden and his Democratic Party have presided over record inflation, high gas prices, and a chaotic and porous southwestern border, among other issues — all of which have combined to sink Biden’s approval rating to historic lows.
“What was McConnell thinking? What in the world was he thinking?”
Unnecessarily ceding an incredibly winnable Senate to Democrats three months before an election is a great example of the leadership choices that have led McConnell to be the least popular national politician in the country, according to the RealClearPolitics average. And it’s a good example of why so many Republicans — grateful as they may be for his successes — think it’s time for new leadership.
“Of the 14 Senate seats that are in contention, two are considered safe for Democrats, one leans Democrat, two are considered safe for Republicans, one leans Republican, and the remaining eight are toss-ups, according to polling averages,” she added.
I'm laughing that yesterday all the DC political media types were dunking on me for criticizing his indefensibly stupid statement but something close to 100% of the response to this piece I've gotten from randos and senators alike is "you are way too nice and kind to him." LOL.
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) August 19, 2022
In a series of tweets related to her column, Hemingway noted that one “political bigwig” whom she did not name had this to say about McConnell’s remarks: “He’s a child having a temper tantrum. It is completely insane for him to criticize our candidates. He can’t step up and lead, clearly, but we need him to shut up.”