McConnell offers McCarthy thoughts and prayers as he angles to escape MAGA's death grip

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who once imagined he would presently be Majority Leader McConnell, is nervous. After what Senate Republicans viewed as a solid 2022 map to retaking the upper chamber, McConnell is also already telegraphing a bit of trepidation on what should be a can't-miss GOP map in '24—when Democrats will be defending 23 seats, including three in red states Ohio, Montana, and West Virginia. It's brutal. But as McConnell well knows, there's virtually nothing MAGA can't mess up for Republicans. So when he was asked about his House counterpart, newly elected Speaker Kevin McCarthy, McConnell was cautiously diplomatic about the relative brightness of McCarthy's future. "Hopefully [he] was not so weakened by all of this that he can’t be an effective speaker," McConnell said of the bruising House GOP leadership fight. "I’m pulling for him. I think he was the right guy for the job. And I’m hoping it’s going to settle down & work out well.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement—more like thoughts and prayers. No matter what transpires under the House Republican majority—and none of it will be good—MAGA is a proven three-time loser at the ballot box. Not only did it deliver the House, the Senate and the White House back to Democrats in '18 and '20, it was also the linchpin to Democratic wins in nearly every statewide battleground contest in ‘22. That final point can't be overstated. As political strategist Michael Podhorzer observed in a recent post-midterm analysis, wherever voters realized the MAGA movement was on the ballot, they turned out to defeat it. At the same time, Republicans still had a good night in places where voters didn’t detect the MAGA threat. On November 8th, that expected Red Wave washed away Democrats across the 35 states where there were no competitive, top of the ticket MAGA candidates on the ballot. But in the other 15 states there was a Blue Undertow, in which Democrats actually did as well as or better than they had in the 2018 Blue Wave election. In states where MAGA was competitive, Democrats now have four more seats in the House and four in the Senate than they did in 2018 with their Blue Wave gains. Yet, they have 25 fewer seats in the other states. In the MAGA Statewide Competitive states, turnout was exactly the same as it was when turnout records were broken in 2018. In the other states, turnout dropped 5 points. Georgia provides the perfect case in point: Voters reelected GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, who wasn't viewed as a MAGA candidate after defying Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election; but they also rejected Trump's handpicked Republican Senate nominee, Herschel Walker. Statewide MAGA candidates were also roundly defeated in other marquee battleground races in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Arizona. Wisconsin's incumbent, Sen. Ron Johnson, was one of the only MAGA types to survive a highly competitive race in the nation's five premier battleground states. Johnson, despite being pro-Trump, had also arguably forged a separate identity from him, whereas most of the MAGA candidates would never have even made the ballot without Trump's imprimatur. But Podhorzer's point is well taken—virtually wherever Republicans rolled the dice on MAGA, turnout spiked, and they lost. Yet Republicans turned in good showings in places where voters didn't recognize a high-profile MAGA threat. Still, the MAGA backlash of the last three cycles has transformed the political complexion of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. As Podhorzer notes of the five, when Trump took office in 2017, only Pennsylvania had a Democratic governor, just four Democrats represented them in the Senate, and Democrats didn't lay claim to a single majority among the 10 legislative chambers. Today, Democrats hold four of the five governors' mansions, nine of the ten Senate seats, and majorities in three of the state legislative chambers. Trump and his MAGA movement built that with the blessing of congressional Republicans, who proved too weak and morally bankrupt to stop it. Chief among them was McConnell, who is now trying to stanch the bleeding while McCarthy continues to slobber all over Trump and the MAGA radicals who now dominate his caucus. McConnell, the GOP's chief Obama-era obstructionist, is now signaling a softer touch. Part of his makeover includes recently naming Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina as a counselor to his leadership team. Tillis, who narrowly won reelection last year, has sometimes worked across the aisle with Democrats on legislation such as last year's $350 billion bipartisan infrastructure law. Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who worked with Tillis on gun reforms, has described him as a “really credible broker” because he’s always “honest about how far he’s willing to go and how far he’s not willing to go," according to Punchbowl news. McConnell will also spend the next year appealing to the heavens for his

McConnell offers McCarthy thoughts and prayers as he angles to escape MAGA's death grip

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who once imagined he would presently be Majority Leader McConnell, is nervous. After what Senate Republicans viewed as a solid 2022 map to retaking the upper chamber, McConnell is also already telegraphing a bit of trepidation on what should be a can't-miss GOP map in '24—when Democrats will be defending 23 seats, including three in red states Ohio, Montana, and West Virginia. It's brutal.

But as McConnell well knows, there's virtually nothing MAGA can't mess up for Republicans. So when he was asked about his House counterpart, newly elected Speaker Kevin McCarthy, McConnell was cautiously diplomatic about the relative brightness of McCarthy's future.

"Hopefully [he] was not so weakened by all of this that he can’t be an effective speaker," McConnell said of the bruising House GOP leadership fight. "I’m pulling for him. I think he was the right guy for the job. And I’m hoping it’s going to settle down & work out well.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement—more like thoughts and prayers.

No matter what transpires under the House Republican majority—and none of it will be good—MAGA is a proven three-time loser at the ballot box. Not only did it deliver the House, the Senate and the White House back to Democrats in '18 and '20, it was also the linchpin to Democratic wins in nearly every statewide battleground contest in ‘22.

That final point can't be overstated. As political strategist Michael Podhorzer observed in a recent post-midterm analysis, wherever voters realized the MAGA movement was on the ballot, they turned out to defeat it. At the same time, Republicans still had a good night in places where voters didn’t detect the MAGA threat.

On November 8th, that expected Red Wave washed away Democrats across the 35 states where there were no competitive, top of the ticket MAGA candidates on the ballot. But in the other 15 states there was a Blue Undertow, in which Democrats actually did as well as or better than they had in the 2018 Blue Wave election. In states where MAGA was competitive, Democrats now have four more seats in the House and four in the Senate than they did in 2018 with their Blue Wave gains. Yet, they have 25 fewer seats in the other states. In the MAGA Statewide Competitive states, turnout was exactly the same as it was when turnout records were broken in 2018. In the other states, turnout dropped 5 points.

Georgia provides the perfect case in point: Voters reelected GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, who wasn't viewed as a MAGA candidate after defying Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election; but they also rejected Trump's handpicked Republican Senate nominee, Herschel Walker.

Statewide MAGA candidates were also roundly defeated in other marquee battleground races in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Arizona. Wisconsin's incumbent, Sen. Ron Johnson, was one of the only MAGA types to survive a highly competitive race in the nation's five premier battleground states. Johnson, despite being pro-Trump, had also arguably forged a separate identity from him, whereas most of the MAGA candidates would never have even made the ballot without Trump's imprimatur.

But Podhorzer's point is well taken—virtually wherever Republicans rolled the dice on MAGA, turnout spiked, and they lost. Yet Republicans turned in good showings in places where voters didn't recognize a high-profile MAGA threat.

Still, the MAGA backlash of the last three cycles has transformed the political complexion of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

As Podhorzer notes of the five, when Trump took office in 2017, only Pennsylvania had a Democratic governor, just four Democrats represented them in the Senate, and Democrats didn't lay claim to a single majority among the 10 legislative chambers.

Today, Democrats hold four of the five governors' mansions, nine of the ten Senate seats, and majorities in three of the state legislative chambers.

Trump and his MAGA movement built that with the blessing of congressional Republicans, who proved too weak and morally bankrupt to stop it. Chief among them was McConnell, who is now trying to stanch the bleeding while McCarthy continues to slobber all over Trump and the MAGA radicals who now dominate his caucus.

McConnell, the GOP's chief Obama-era obstructionist, is now signaling a softer touch. Part of his makeover includes recently naming Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina as a counselor to his leadership team. Tillis, who narrowly won reelection last year, has sometimes worked across the aisle with Democrats on legislation such as last year's $350 billion bipartisan infrastructure law.

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who worked with Tillis on gun reforms, has described him as a “really credible broker” because he’s always “honest about how far he’s willing to go and how far he’s not willing to go," according to Punchbowl news.

McConnell will also spend the next year appealing to the heavens for his party to nominate anyone on the planet but Trump. He recently told a Kentucky radio station the 2024 nomination would be a "wide open" race, adding, “I hope we nominate someone who can win.”

Unspoken but implied—because MAGA is the ultimate loser. And no one knows better than McConnell that the likelihood of Republicans flipping the two seats necessary to retake the Senate will decrease exponentially if MAGA is once again on the ballot in '24.

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