Senate Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) ho-hum attitude about Republican chances of taking control of the upper chamber following the midterms may have had a turnabout following a closed-door meeting where he expressed “cautious optimism” ahead of announcing fundraisers for two MAGA candidates.
Discord within a party becomes readily apparent when primary season rolls around and candidates vie for endorsements. Throughout 2022, former President Donald Trump’s picks have blown away the competition, raising concerns about McConnell’s motives for the Senate as support in toss-up elections has been viewed as less than lackluster stemming from the divide between the two top Republicans.
Now, according to a report from Axios, McConnell expressed “cautious optimism” during Monday’s closed-door meeting with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and this apparent change in perspective lead into the announcement of fundraising events for Trump-backed Senate candidates Blake Masters of Arizona and Herschel Walker of Georgia.
Teddy Schleifer of Puck News posted an invitation for the Masters event being held Wednesday where ticket prices ranged from $500 to $5,000 and McConnell was listed as the special guest.
Mitch McConnell is fundraising for Blake Masters in Washington. Here's the invite. pic.twitter.com/oaoKjAQFAT
— Teddy Schleifer (@teddyschleifer) September 19, 2022
Similarly, Punchbowl News found that McConnell would be hosting an event for Walker Thursday near Capitol Hill at the steakhouse, Charlie Palmer Steak.
Behind the scenes, the McConnell-backed Senate Leadership Fund has being shifting responsibility for funding campaigns to high-level donors like Peter Thiel as they’ve tried to allocate resources elsewhere. The Daily Mail noted that the senator’s PAC had pulled $9.6 million in ad buys from Masters Tuesday while Thiel’s resources are sending in roughly $1.7 million.
Back in August, McConnell had notably said, “I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate. Senate races are just different, they’re statewide. Candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome.”
McConnell seemingly swipes at Trump with snide ‘candidate quality’ remark https://t.co/0ecHhsihwN
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) August 19, 2022
The remarks were taken as a shot against Trump and MAGA Republicans as the senator went on to draw ire for GOP voters adding, “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.”
Details on the Kentucky lawmaker’s negotiations to shuffle PAC dollars while announcing fundraisers appears to show that, as polls tighten, McConnell is hoping to improve his own optics and shore-up his network of sycophants without actually gaining a considerable majority in the Senate to being 2023.
While some polls like Quinnipiac have shown Walker trailing incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock by as many as 6 points, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found them locked within the statistical margin of error at 46-44 with Walker gaining on the progressive.
The slight shift in tone is unlikely to earn McConnell any favorability with Trump supporters as many have seen the leader as a pivotal player in maintaining the swamp and preventing a real change in Washington, D.C. Should Republicans fail to make big gains in the Senate come November, the blame will undoubtedly be placed on McConnell’s shoulders as one Twitter user noted in an extensive thread against the senator, “There was a red wave coming. Then the GOP got involved.”
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