McConnell was sure the GOP would reclaim the Senate. Too bad he miscalculated every step of the way

Analysts and pundits are finally picking up on the fact that the supposed red wave of 2022 was much more of a red mirage all along. The slow-but-steady downgrading of GOP prospects in November is everywhere. But nowhere is this more apparent than in the Senate, where Republican candidates are consistently underperforming and, in some cases, are downright comically bad (witness Dr. Mehmet Oz, whose political wizardry is already the stuff of legend).

It's important to note that Democrats haven't won anything yet, but it's equally important to note that Democratic chances of keeping Senate have improved dramatically from the doomsday predictions earlier this year (FiveThirtyEight's "deluxe" model—the least favorable to Dems—now gives Democrats a 72% chance of winning the Senate).

That potential loss on the heels of so much GOP hubris has produced a delightful circular firing squad among Republican leaders. Naturally, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was eager to get his version of events out early, fingering the party's dreadful "candidate quality" as the chief culprit for its faltering Senate takeover campaign.

“I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate,” McConnell said last month, handicapping the GOP’s midterm chances at a Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce luncheon. “Senate races are just different—they're statewide, candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome.”

Despite McConnell's stoic delivery, his downgraded prediction was an obvious swipe at Donald Trump and National Republican Senatorial Committee chair Rick Scott, who both helped saddle the GOP with a crop of candidates who are either full MAGA extremists (Arizona's Blake Masters) or entirely lackluster (Pennsylvania's Doc Oz) or both (Ohio's J.D. Vance).

But the truth is, if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had half the backbone that GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming does, he would be spending his energy rallying the troops right now for potential victory, rather than identifying scapegoats for potential defeat.

Let's review just how badly McConnell mucked up Senate Republicans and the party more broadly this cycle, starting with Donald Trump's post-insurrection impeachment trial:

  1. McConnell had a chance to drive a stake through Trump's political future by leading his caucus to convict Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Once convicted, Trump would have had no path to lawfully run for a second term. But rather than leading, McConnell followed his caucus, leading to Trump's acquittal and a second bite at the presidential apple.
  2. McConnell packed the Supreme Court full of right-wing extremists who in no way reflect the political mainstream, nor do they care. Perhaps McConnell never imagined that they would overturn 50 years of settled abortion law so quickly and callously, or maybe he just wildly underestimated the political backlash to such a ruling. Either way, he badly miscalculated.
  3. After it was clear that Trump was determined to put his thumb heavily on the scales of the election cycle’s GOP primaries, McConnell played along, openly endorsing political misfits like former Georgia football star Herschel Walker—an alleged spousal abuser with violent tendencies and self-admitted psychiatric problems who has trouble articulating a coherent thought. “Herschel is the only one who can unite the party, defeat Senator Warnock, and help us take back the Senate. I look forward to working with Herschel in Washington to get the job done,” McConnell said in a statement last fall.
  4. McConnell intentionally declined to lay out a platform for his caucus should they regain control of the chamber. Asked in January what Republicans would do with their majority, McConnell offered coyly, "That is a very good question. And I'll let you know when we take it back." That giant heap of hubris has cost Republicans dearly. As inflation and gas prices have begun to recede, McConnell's declination has left Republicans without a Plan B. His leadership vacuum also invited NRSC chair Rick Scott to offer up his own agenda, promising widespread tax increases for working Americans and the prospect of phasing out Social Security and Medicare. That landed like a box of rocks dropped from Scott's alien spaceship. But that's not all, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina got in the act last week with his own bit of leadership: a national 15-week abortion ban that he promised would get a vote if Republicans retook the Senate. Graham's head-scratching gambit has sent GOP Senate hopefuls scrambling for cover while prompting a dismissal from McConnell himself. "I think most of the members of my conference prefer that this be dealt with at the state level," McConnell told reporters last week.

Bottom line: McConnell has repeatedly misplayed this election. He believed that he could bend the entire nation to his political will despite the fact that he and his party's views were wildly out of step with the American mainstream. After years of not paying a political price for abusing the power entrusted to him, McConnell concluded that he could get away with virtually anything—including turning the Supreme Court into a GOP-guided missile.

McConnell, the supposed master tactician, also bet that he could benefit more from Trump's continued presence in the party than he would pay for continuing to carry Trump's baggage.

If Senate Republicans fail to retake the Senate this November, McConnell will have no one to thank but himself. If he weren't so morally bankrupt, he might have had the mettle to salvage his party and field a group of competitive candidates. Instead, he's racing to put out fires, point fingers, and brace for a potentially embarrassing defeat that shuts him out from becoming the longest-serving Senate majority Leader.

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‘Thanks for stopping by’: Biden fires back after Rick Scott flaunts toxic ‘Plan to Rescue America’

Our Illustrious Overlord Dark Brandon of House Biden—Vanquisher of Jabronis, Doter of Grandchildren, and Dread Scourge of Dandelions—has been a right saucy rogue lately.

Whereas in the past he’s appeared content to seek common ground with uncommonly gross Republicans, something has lit a fire under Joe Biden lately, and he’s come out swinging. And sometimes—even when he’s not speaking—you can detect a rakish glint in his eye.

The latest? Florida Sen. Rick Scott, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Medicare fraudster extraordinaire, is sarcastically urging President Biden to spread the word about his 12-point “Rescue America Plan”—and Uncle Joe is sarcastically (and wisely) doing just that.

RELATED: Going into the midterms, Democrats can be seriously grateful that Rick Scott is on the other side


.@JoeBiden said he wished he had enough copies of my Rescue America plan, so I stopped by the White House today to make sure he did. Thanks for spreading the word, Joe! Check it out at:

— Rick Scott (@ScottforFlorida) September 13, 2022


Couldn’t agree more, Rick. And if anyone else wants to read your plan to put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block, they should go to Thanks for stopping by.

— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 14, 2022

Wait, why would both these guys—one who loves America and one who loves stealing Medicare funds from America—want you to read a Republican plan to “rescue” America? Well, because the plan is arboreal ape shit. And not the top-shelf variety.

And while the plan isn’t nearly as noxious as it used to be—when pretty much everyone from across the political spectrum panned it—it’s still pretty bad.

RELATED: Rick Scott made the mistake of telling voters what Republicans stand for. It's a polling disaster

The major revision Sen. Scott made to his plan involved removing a policy plank insisting that everyone—including people who make little to no money—should be forced to pay income tax. (Guess that’s more important than requiring that all corporations pay a little something in taxes, huh?)

But the plan is still problematic, particularly if voters figure out that it’s an existential threat to Social Security and Medicare, which Sen. Scott probably sees as a corrupt boondoggle because it’s so comically easy to defraud.

Of course, Moscow Mitch McConnell, who understands better than most how to gaslight the plebes, did not like Scott’s plan one bit. Scott rolled it out in February, and fled a GOP press conference on March 1, moments before McConnell addressed what are arguably its two most worrying proposals: 

“If we’re fortunate enough to have the majority next year, I’ll be the majority leader. I’ll decide in consultation with my members what to put on the floor,” McConnell said.


McConnell continued: “Let me tell you what will not be on our agenda. We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years. That will not be part of the Republican Senate majority agenda.”

RELATED: Rick Scott kicks off final push to midterms by escalating his war with Mitch McConnell

Yet six months later, the part about sunsetting the vital programs millions of seniors and others depend on to keep eating and breathing? That’s still in there.

As Democratic political analyst and columnist Ed Kilgore noted in in New York magazine:

In any event, Scott was so worried about the stink of the tax-hike idea that his revised plan has 12 points rather than 11; the new one loudly advertises hatred of all taxes and includes the very dumb idea of making it even harder than it already is to avoid an economy-crushing debt default. But what interests me is the fact that he did not take the time to get rid of some of the other howlers in the original plan while he was at it. The five-year sunset on all federal laws that McConnell considered as bad as the minimum tax is still there. So is the truly stupid idea of a 12-year “term limit” on all federal nonmilitary employment, which would impose costs and inefficiencies nearly as severe as Scott’s other proposal to force the relocations of federal agencies outside Washington.

Also, while Lindsey Graham and friends are doing their best to keep the toxic (for Republicans) abortion issue front and center, vaporizing long-held reproductive rights remains an integral part of Scott’s plan:

  • Abortion kills human children. To deny that is to deny science.
  • Whether you believe in God or not, as a civilized people who accept science, we must protect babies, born and unborn, from all acts of violence.
  • All government policies will favor having more babies adopted, not aborted.

This reminds me of the good old days during Trump’s first impeachment, when Neck-Wattle Nero kept telling his followers to read the transcript, and we were all, “Yes, by all means, read the transcript! It shows Trump blackmailing a foreign head of state in order to manufacture dirt on a political opponent!”

Meanwhile, even Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is now getting in on the act, effusively thanking Republicans for punching themselves in their own arrogant faces. 

Schumer: What are Democrats doing? Talking about new jobs.. What are the MAGA Republicans doing? A nationwide abortion ban.

— Acyn (@Acyn) September 13, 2022

(Partial) transcript!

SCHUMER: “… Americans from every walk of life are seeing the contrast: What are Democrats doing? Talking about new jobs, cheaper costs. What are the MAGA Republicans doing? A nationwide abortion ban.

“That’s the contrast between the two parties, plain and simple. … Republicans are twisting themselves in a pretzel trying to explain their position on abortion. Let me be clear: Again, what Sen. Graham is introducing is a MAGA Republican nationwide abortion ban. If it walks like a nationwide abortion ban and talks like a nationwide abortion ban, it is a nationwide abortion ban.

“So, that’s the contrast. The split screen is unmistakable for all Americans to see for themselves. We’re focused on job creating, inflation fighting. They’re focused on an extreme agenda that hurts women.”

Sen Schumer is right. There are clear and striking differences between the two parties right now, and Democrats seem keen to highlight them. For some reason, Republicans do, too. And that may finally be their downfall. 

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