Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) predicted on Wednesday night that he’ll be reelected as Senate GOP leader regardless of whether Republicans take back the upper congressional chamber in November’s elections.
During an appearance on Fox News, McConnell was asked by host Bret Baier about whether he would be able to lead a GOP caucus that may include a growing number of senators backed by former President Donald Trump, who has frequently criticized McConnell’s leadership.
“You could be looking, as I mentioned, J.D. Vance, Mehmet Oz, Ted Budd. You have Trump-loyal Republicans like Eric Schmitt, who just won in Missouri, Blake Masters in Arizona, and some of those candidates have refused to say on the trail that they back you as leader,” Baier said, referring to several Senate candidates backed by Trump. “Is that the new face of a ‘Trumpified’ Republican Party? And are you the guy to lead that in the Senate?”
McConnell said he’s still very confident in being reelected GOP leader.
“Well, look at it this way: I have been elected eight times without opposition. If I have an opponent—I don’t own this job, and there’s always an election every two years for leader—if anybody wants to challenge me, have at it,” the Kentucky Republican said.
Baier followed up by asking: “If you don’t win the majority, are you still going to be leader?” to which McConnell replied, “I am.”
Trump Versus McConnell
While Trump and McConnell rarely butted heads while the former president was in office, he’s frequently targeted the longtime Senate leader since the Jan. 6, 2021, breach of the U.S. Capitol. At one point, Trump suggested McConnell be ousted from his leadership position.
“The Republican Party can never again be respected or strong with political ‘leaders’ like Sen. Mitch McConnell at its helm,” Trump said in a statement in early 2021. “McConnell’s dedication to business as usual, status quo policies, together with his lack of political insight, wisdom, skill, and personality, has rapidly driven him from Majority Leader to Minority Leader, and it will only get worse,” he added.
Several weeks ago, the former commander-in-chief pilloried McConnell’s support of a gun-control bill that provides more funding to so-called red flag laws, ends straw purchases of firearms, and adds more restrictions on federally licensed firearms dealers.
The senate GOP leader’s decision to not only vote for the bill but to “push for Republican senators to vote for gun control will be the final straw,” said Trump in late June.
For his part, McConnell has issued few statements—critical or otherwise—in response to Trump’s criticisms. Last month, McConnell suggested that if Trump were to become the 2024 Republican nominee for president, he would “absolutely” support his bid.