McConnell's Task: Recover From Worst Day of Political Life

The big question: Can he rebound?
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 27, 2017 1:16 PM CDT
McConnell's Task: Recover From Worst Day of Political Life
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, flanked by Sen. John Thune, left, and Majority Whip John Cornyn speaks at the Capitol .   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

As has been widely noted, Mitch McConnell had a truly awful Tuesday. The Senate majority leader had to surrender on ObamaCare repeal, ally Bob Corker announced he was retiring, and, perhaps worst of all, the Senate candidate that McConnell strongly backed in Alabama got trounced by one backed by the Steve Bannon contingent. Just how bad is it for McConnell? Here's a look at coverage:

  • Mocked by Trump: The president has taken to doing physical impressions of a slump-shouldered McConnell, reports Axios. Trump also reportedly called out McConnell as "weak" at a dinner with conservative activists, reports Politico.

  • On the wane: McConnell has gone from "brilliant tactician" to looking vulnerable after the defeats this week, reports the New York Times. If the GOP fails to get tax reform passed this year, his post as majority leader could be in jeopardy—especially with populist insurgents backed by Bannon looking to win more seats.
  • No immediate danger: Both Politico and the Times say McConnell retains rock-solid support in the Republican Conference and thus is not in any immediate peril. Much of that support is based on his formidable fundraising skills on behalf of Senate Republicans.
  • Beware the midterms: In a piece subtitled, "Is the Senate Leader Losing His Grip on the GOP?," Abigail Tracy at Vanity Fair notes that midterm elections in general are often unkind to the party in power: "With the GOP in the midst of an ideological schism, McConnell’s faction could be headed for a reckoning." Indeed, Tuesday's triple whammy "just shows how weak the Republican establishment is right now," writes Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight.
  • Boehner's fate? McConnell is willing to take all the criticism coming from conservatives over the ObamaCare fail, especially if it protects rank-and-file Republicans, per an analysis at the Washington Post. "But one thing that could hamper McConnell’s long-term standing would be if he became a real albatross to his own incumbents in primary elections ahead," writes Paul Kane. Fear of that played a role in John Boehner's resignation as House speaker two years ago.
  • False narrative: Many in the media are portraying the Alabama results as a loss for Trump, but winner Roy Moore is decidedly Trumpian, writes Erick Erickson at the Resurgent. No, this was all about McConnell—in fact, Moore made running against him "the theme of his campaign."
(More Mitch McConnell stories.)

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