Why Trump’s push to oust McConnell fell flat

“Today I unveil my promise to America to fire Mitch McConnell,” Brooks said in a video posted Monday. “If elected to the Senate, I will not vote for Mitch McConnell as leader. And I will do everything in my power to ensure that Republicans choose a conservative as their leader.”
The move came following reports, including from CNN’s Gabby Orr, that Trump was considering withdrawing his endorsement from Brooks, who struggled to gain ground ahead of May’s crowded GOP Senate primary in Alabama. Brooks called on his opponents to make the same pledge, adding, “This is the battle across America – McConnell versus Trump in a war for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.”

It’s the lens through which Trump and his allies prefer to view this year’s Senate GOP primaries. But the same cannot be said for most of the candidates running in these primaries.

In the 13 months since Trump first called for McConnell to be removed as Republican Senate leader, only three of the party’s most prominent Senate nominees (and no sitting senators) joined him.
Eric Greitens, the scandal-ridden former governor of Missouri, was the first last September. Trump has yet to endorse that primary, but more establishment-oriented Republicans fear Greitens could put the reliable red state on the line if he were the nominee.
Then in December, Republican Kelly Tshibaka, who is challenging Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski with Trump’s backing, also said she would not support McConnell as leader if elected.

But even as other Republican Senate candidates have aggressively sought Trump’s endorsement and the former president has repeatedly attacked McConnell, Brooks only became the third member of that group on Monday. And Brooks hardly did it from a position of strength, only going so far once he felt Trump’s support slip away.

For now, most of the other Republican Senate candidates are trying to distinguish between Trump and McConnell. On the one hand, they know they cannot alienate Trump or his base if they have any hope of passing the primary. And on the other hand, they don’t want to turn off the financial tap that McConnell can provide through his well-funded outside groups — or be on the wrong side if they find themselves in the Senate next year.

In fact, before Brooks’ move on Monday, there were as many examples of Trump and McConnell on the same page in open primaries as there were candidates who supported ousting the GOP leader in the Senate. Trump and McConnell both lined up behind Herschel Walker in Georgia and Adam Laxalt in Nevada, both high-profile battleground contestants.
That’s not to say everything went according to plan for McConnell. Most notably, he failed to recruit top GOP candidates (who were far from Trump cronies) in the Senate races in Arizona, Maryland and New Hampshire. And more Trump-McConnell proxy battles are sure to erupt between now and November.

But for now, he has managed to avoid widespread rebuke from the party’s Senate candidates – despite Trump’s best efforts.

Point: Trump remains the most influential figure in the Republican Party. But the lack of support for his campaign to oust McConnell shows there is a limit to that influence.


cnn

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