Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday cited former President Donald Trump’s endorsements in the 2022 midterm election primaries as the reason for “candidate quality” issues that resulted in several major defeats for the Republican Party last month.
Blake Masters, retired Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, and Herschel Walker all lost their respective Senate races in the states McConnell mentioned on Tuesday, and all were endorsed by the 76-year-old former commander-in-chief.
“I never said there was a red wave, I said we had a bunch of close races,” McConnell added, noting that he raised concerns in August when some in the GOP were predicting major gains for Republicans in Congress.
The Senate Republican leader also defended the work of the Senate Leadership Fund, a GOP affiliated super PAC, noting that it intervened in primaries in Alabama, backing eventual general election winner Katie Britt in the primary over Rep. Mo Brooks, and in Missouri, where Eric Schmitt overcame a challenge by disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens.
Trump withdrew his endorsement of Brooks in the Alabama race, and in Missouri, he cryptically endorsed “ERIC,” the first name of both leading candidates.
McConnell said Senate GOP leaders could do little in races where Trump endorsed MAGA-style candidates or Republicans who denied the results of the 2020 election.
“Our ability to control primary outcomes was quite limited in ’22 because the support of the former president proved to be very decisive in these primaries so my view was do the best with the cards you’re dealt,” he said of the strategy to do little to challenge Trump-backed candidates in the primaries.
“Hopefully in the next cycle, we’ll have quality candidates everywhere and a better outcome,” McConnell added.
The Senate GOP leader said that Republicans “unfortunately revisited” the situation that played out in the 2010 and 2012 elections, when the Republican Party lost close Senate races in Delaware, Indiana, and Missouri when controversial candidates won their primaries.
In 2010, self-professed witchcraft enthusiast Christine O’Donnell lost her Delaware Senate race to Democratic incumbent Sen. Chris Coons, and in 2012, Todd Akin failed to unseat then-Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill after he suggested that “legitimate rape” could not lead to a conception of a child.
“I do think we had the opportunity to relearn one more time you have to have quality candidates to win competitive senate races,” McConnell said. “We went through this in 2010, 2012.”
In 2023, Democrats will control the Senate with a 51 seat majority compared to the 49 seats held by Republicans.