Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called out former President Donald Trump’s dwindling political influence and vowed that the Republican Party will not accept his preferred candidates in 2024.
“Here’s what I think has changed: I think the former president’s political clout has diminished,” McConnell told NBC News, taking a shot at the 76-year-old former commander-in-chief.
The Senate GOP leader, in the Wednesday interview that was reported Friday, added that Republicans will “actively look for quality candidates” for the 2024 primaries, and that the party is “less inclined to accept cards that may be dealt to us.”
McConnell has faced criticism for not directing the Senate Leadership Fund super PAC to intervene in several 2022 Senate primaries where seemingly flawed Trump-endorsed candidates went on to win their primary and lose in the general election.
McConnell told NBC News that he “looked at the landscape” and believed Missouri, where scandal-plagued Eric Greitens was running against Eric Schmitt, and Alabama, where Rep. Mo Brooks was challenged by Katie Britt, were the only two Senate races where his super pac could intervene.
“In the other states, Trump’s support was so significant — we could have spent a lot of money, maybe trying to come up with a different candidate and maybe not succeeding,” he said. “And so my conclusion was that everywhere else, we had to play with the cards that were dealt.”
With Trump announcing that he will make another run at the White House in 2024, McConnell hopes that means “less potential interference” in primary races next cycle.
“We can do a better job with less potential interference,” he said. “The former president may have other things to do.”
McConnell also accused Trump of tarnishing the GOP’s image among non-rank-and-file Republican voters.
“We lost support that we needed among independents and moderate Republicans, primarily related to the view they had of us as a party — largely made by the former president — that we were sort of nasty and tended toward chaos,” McConnell said. “And oddly enough, even though that subset of voters did not approve of President Biden, they didn’t have enough confidence in us in several instances to give us the majority we needed.”
Earlier this week, McConnell took another shot at the former president, who he still says he may support if he is chosen to be the GOP presidential nominee, saying that the “entire nation knows who is responsible for” the Jan. 6 Capitol riot after the House select committee referred criminal charges against Trump to the Justice Department.