Former President Donald Trump is escalating his feud with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. In a post on Truth Social, Trump encouraged Republicans to challenge McConnell (and senators who vote alongside McConnell) in the primary elections. Republicans need to “stop” McConnell, according to Trump.
“It’s as though he just doesn’t care anymore, he pushes through anything the Democrats want. The $1.7 TRILLION quickly approved Bill of the week before was HORRIBLE,” Trump wrote, referencing last month’s government spending bill. “Zero for USA Border Security. If he waited just ten days, the now ‘United Republican Congress’ could have made it MUCH BETTER, or KILLED IT.
“Something is wrong with McConnell, and those Republican Senators that Vote with him. PRIMARY THEM ALL!!!” All caps. Three exclamation marks. The former president is fired up about this.
Donald Trump and McConnell’s relationship has been frosty for awhile
Trump and McConnell’s relationship frosted over pretty quickly when McConnell criticized Trump following the January 6th, 2021, Capitol riot.
The thin-skinned Trump didn’t appreciate McConnell’s criticism and lashed out, calling for Republicans to mount a primary challenge against McConnell. The relationship has never reset back to normal and remains frosty today.
But Trump’s popularity has depreciated significantly since he first began his feud with McConnell, meaning Trump’s calls for the GOP to mount a primary challenge against one of its most established figures is less likely to be heeded.
Trump’s popularity has been fading – thanks to an endless variety of lawsuits, investigations, and scandals – and thanks to Trump’s inability to win an election. In 2022, Trump endorsees were trounced at the midterms, losing in all but one battleground state elections. Trump himself lost his last election, of course – the 2020 presidential election, which Joe Biden won by 7 million votes. Accordingly, Trump’s directives have a bit less weight than they used to.
Actually, just last month, McConnell implied that he regretted deferring to Trump’s handpicked candidates in the 2022 primaries, which culminated in impressive defeats and “a larger Democratic majority.” McConnell promises not to repeat the mistakes he made in 2022 happen again; he promises to “actively look for quality candidates.” McConnell also criticized Trump more directly, pointing out that Trump’s power is declining.
“Here’s what I think has changed,” McConnell said. “I think the former president’s political clout has diminished.” McConnell continued, saying that he was “less inclined to accept cards that may be dealt to us” and that “we can do a better job with less potential interference. The former president may have other things to do.”
The reduced reverence with which Republicans treat Trump’s decrees was made quite clear last week when a contingent of conservative Republicans cut against Trump’s endorsement of Kevin McCarthy for Speaker of the House. Instead of heeding Trump’s endorsement, a group of Freedom Caucus members held out for thirteen consecutive votes – forcing the longest speakership election process in 150 years and extracting plenty of concessions along the way.
Curiously, the Republican holdouts were mostly pro-Trumpers. Representatives like Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert. So, if the pro-Trump crowd is willing to cut against Trump’s inputs – in a very public fashion – don’t expect Donald Trump to hold much weight with the more mainstream Republican crowd.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.