Trump’s attacks on McConnell prelude to 2024 White House bid

Previous President TrumpDonald Trump Three men charged with fraud in PAC scheme of .5 million scams Judge rejects Trump’s request to delay release of Jan.6 documents amid appeal Prince Harry says he warned Dorsey from Twitter on the January 6 riots MORE He refuses to let his enmity with the senator. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnell Supreme Court Expansion to Protect Reproductive Rights On The Money: Biden’s Battle with Inflation Biden to Sign Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Monday MORE (R-Ky.) He dies, rather than amplifying it in what Republican strategists suspect is an effort to accelerate the Republican base ahead of a 2024 presidential campaign.

More than anyone in politics, McConnell, the Senate minority leader, is emblematic of the Republican establishment in Washington and Trump’s repeated salvos against McConnell seem designed to make it clear to Republican-based voters that Trump, despite of his four years in the White House, he would be the true outside candidate in the 2024 primaries.

Trump has shown interest in running again for president in other ways, including supporting the work of the super PAC Make America Great Again Action, which held its first fundraising event at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

The former president is framing the 2022 Republican primaries as a choice between his “America First” style of conservative populism and a party establishment not entirely in tune with his conservative base.

“It’s the clearest sign that he’s running for president,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said of Trump’s repeated attacks on McConnell.

Trump’s last chance was to criticize McConnell for being one of 19 Senate Republicans who voted in August for a $ 1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, which the House passed last week, giving President BidenJoe BidenJudge Rejects Trump’s Request to Delay Release of Jan.6 Papers Amid Appeal On Money: Biden’s Battle with Inflation Night Defense and National Security: Russia Concerns Increase MORE a great victory.

Why did Old Raven Mitch McConnell vote for a terrible Socialist Democratic Infrastructure Plan and induce others in his Party to do the same, when he was unable to get a great Infrastructure Plan that wanted to be presented by me and the Republican Party? “Trump was enraged in a statement Tuesday.

Biden and Democrats will be able to point to the largest infrastructure spending bill in history as a significant achievement ahead of the 2022 midterm elections and the 2024 presidential elections, and conservatives are furious about it.

Thirteen House Republicans voted in favor of the measure on Friday, prompting immediate backlash and condemnation from their more conservative colleagues.

“What he’s saying is that McConnell can’t keep his group at bay. The people who are most upset about this bill are the grassroots of the Republican Party and what Donald Trump says is, ‘His party has disappointed him again and only I can keep them at bay,’ “O’Connell added.

Ned Ryun, a Trump ally and founder and CEO of the American Majority, a conservative group that trains candidates and activists, says he has no doubt that Trump is preparing for another presidential race.

“It is not going anywhere. He just raised the amount of money he raised in his super PAC. He’s not doing that to play tiddlywinks. Get ready for Trump 2024, ”he said.

Ryun noted that McConnell has never been especially popular with the Republican base and said that is why Republican candidate Eric Greitens, who is running for Senate in Missouri and seeking Trump’s endorsement, has said he will not support McConnell for another. term as Republican leader of the Senate. .

Ryun said other Republican Senate primary candidates are also thinking about trying to make McConnell a problem in their elections.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the people of Arizona, Ohio and other key Senate elections came out and said that,” he said, referring to Greitens’ promise to vote against McConnell’s candidacy for another leadership term.

Ryun said the call to replace McConnell as leader gives Trump a powerful argument as a candidate who would run again as an outsider Republican.

He said Trump is speaking “to see if we can get real America First leadership in the Senate.”

“Are you trying to get agitated to see how far people are willing to go to say, ‘We want America First leadership or leadership better than Mitch McConnell that better reflects the grassroots’? Yes, I can see where Trump is trying to push them in that direction, “he added.

Republican Senate sources, however, say McConnell faces no challenge to his leadership position within the Senate Republican conference and no Republican senator has indicated any desire to run against him for the senior leadership position.

A top Republican Senate aide said McConnell still has strong support from his fellow Republican senators.

“With its members, it has no effect,” the source said of the effect Trump’s attacks have on McConnell’s position as leader.

McConnell has defended his support for the $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill as motivated by the interests of his home state of Kentucky, which will receive an estimated $ 4 billion to address its backlog of deferred maintenance and other priorities.

“We have many infrastructure needs, both in rural areas and with large bridges. It’s a blessing for Kentucky. “

He noted that the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Kentucky’s infrastructure a “C-minus.”

But while federal funding can go a long way toward Kentucky’s infrastructure needs, it also gives Trump a good deal of trouble dividing the party’s leadership in Washington from the Republican base, which remains largely loyal to the former president. .

“I thought the vote for the infrastructure bill was going to be a bad vote for Republicans, months ago,” said Vin Weber, a Republican strategist. “And I think it is and will be for those Republicans who voted in favor.

“This is an opportunity for Trump to give McConnell a chance. I don’t think he wants any competing voice in the Republican Party, “he added. McConnell is the biggest figure left in the Republican Party right now and has been for a long time. I think Trump doesn’t like that. “

McConnell and Trump had a good working relationship for the most part during Trump’s four years in the White House. His most tense moment while Trump was in office came when the president criticized McConnell for not repealing the Affordable Care Act, after the late Senator. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump to attend Arizona Senate Republican Candidate Fundraiser Magnitsky Renewal: Best Weapon Against Emerging Security Threat Biden Puts Presidency at stake with House MORE (R-Ariz.) He surprised his colleagues by voting in favor of canceling the so-called “skinny repeal” plan.

The two leaders parted ways after the 2020 election when McConnell informed Trump in a phone call in mid-December, a day after the Electoral College vote, that he would recognize Biden as president-elect. McConnell said it was the last time he spoke to Trump.

Their relationship became more strained in the following weeks when McConnell dissuaded his Senate colleagues from supporting an objection to the Electoral College recount on January 6.

The latest breaking point came when a crowd of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6 in an attempt to stop Congressional certification of the Electoral College.

McConnell’s associates later told the media that the Republican leader was “furious” at the events of the day, which left several people dead, including a Capitol police officer.

McConnell expressed anger at the president when he delivered a scathing speech in the Senate after voting on technical grounds against convicting Trump on an impeachment article accusing him of inciting an insurrection.

“There is no doubt, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” McConnell said on the floor.

“A mob was storming the Capitol in his name,” he added. “These criminals carried their banners, hung their flags and shouted their loyalty to him.”

Trump lashed out in response a few days later by issuing a 600-word statement calling on Senate Republicans to replace McConnell as leader.

“If the Republican senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again,” Trump warned.

Since that high-profile public battle, McConnell has regularly avoided questions about Trump’s repeated attacks and always says he wants to stay focused on fighting Biden’s agenda and regaining the Senate majority in 2022.

McConnell said earlier this year that he would “absolutely” support Trump in 2024 if he is the Republican nominee for president.

Al Cross, a journalism professor at the University of Kentucky and a longtime Kentucky political commentator, said McConnell only has to worry about maintaining the loyalty of the Senate Republican conference and has nothing to gain by responding to Trump. .

“McConnell does not have a national constituency apart from the other 49 Republican senators. You don’t have to worry so much about public opinion polls, ”he said.

“There is no percentage in countering Donald J. Trump and McConnell always plays with the percentages,” he added. “McConnell’s main directive is to avoid dividing the caucus and, by extension, the party.”

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