Mitch McConnell is still proud of his efforts to intervene in Republican primaries.
The triumphant Senate majority leader told Fox News host Dana Perino Wednesday that he was glad controversial West Virginia Senate candidate Don Blankenship lost the Republican primary to challenge Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
“I’m glad the people of West Virginia decided that particular approach of attacking me and my family was good for a distant third place,” McConnell, R-Ky., said.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) May 9, 2018
Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy, became the talk of the national media after he began heavily criticizing McConnell, derogatorily referring to the senator from Kentucky as “Cocaine Mitch” and alleging that McConnell had dirty financial ties to “China people.” Blankenship was CEO of Massey at the time of a mine explosion that killed 29 miners and was criminally convicted for violating mine health and safety standards in relation to that accident. Worried national Republicans felt that he would not be an electable candidate to knock out Manchin. In the final weeks of the race, internal polls showed Blankenship surging, but after President Donald Trump urged voters to reject his campaign, he finished third on Tuesday. Conservative-backed state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey was nominated to challenge Manchin.
Blankenship’s campaign became specifically anti-McConnell after a super PAC with ties to McConnell launched ads targeting the coal baron. In the interview with Perino, McConnell suggested that thanks to his efforts to intervene in Republican primaries this year and in past elections, Republicans are in a better position to keep their majority in the Senate.
“We had a couple of cycles in 2010 and 2012 when, basically, we took kind of a passive approach to primaries. A number of people were nominated who were clearly unelectable in November,” McConnell said. “We couldn’t deal with that in 2014 and we’ve intervened in primaries — where we needed to — in order to guarantee that we had fully electable candidates on the ballot in November. That’s why we took the majority in ’14, why we kept it in ’16, and why we’ll keep it in ’18.”
He responded to criticism that he’s been unable to advance most of the conservative agenda by greatly exaggerating Congress’ accomplishments, neglecting to mention his failures, and making excuses by blaming Democratic obstruction.
“It’s kind of exasperating because I think a lot of Republicans think we’ve underperformed,” McConnell said. He called the last year and a half the “most effective” period for conservatives since he’s been in the Senate. He cited the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the confirmations of several circuit court judges, tax reform, the repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate, and opening up the Alaskan wilderness to drilling for oil. “It’s been a dream period for conservatives,” McConnell said.
Except it hasn’t been. Obamacare is still the law of the land, despite eight years of Republican promises to fully repeal that disastrous legislation. Under McConnell’s leadership, the Senate passed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that funded Democratic priorities without funding President Trump’s priorities, other than increased military spending. Planned Parenthood is still receiving federal tax dollars. President Trump’s wall is not fully funded, while sanctuary cities are. The courts are running amok to reverse President Trump’s agenda without congressional oversight. Congress has all but given up on passing a budget. This is by no means a “dream” conservative government.
McConnell makes excuses by blaming Senate Democrats for obstructing key legislation, like the 12 appropriations bills Congress is supposed to pass instead of giant omnibus bills. What he doesn’t tell voters is there are tools he can use but won’t to fight Democratic obstruction. Moreover, the Democrats aren’t the only problem. Remember, McConnell could not muster 51 Republican votes in the Senate to pass a even partial repeal of Obamacare because of a handful liberal GOP senators were unwilling to keep their promises.
Yet come election time, McConnell and his allies defend these big-spending, big-government incumbents against conservative challengers under the pretense of preventing “unelectable” candidates win party nominations. McConnell wants people to believe he’s doing the Republican Party a service by preventing Don Blankenship- or Roy Moore-type candidates from winning in primaries. In reality, he and his allies are undermining conservatives who pose a threat to his position in leadership.
Don’t forget that in 2010, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, an arm of GOP leadership, endorsed now-Democrat Charlie Crist over Marco Rubio in the Florida Republican primary in “service” of finding “electable” candidates. That same year, McConnell opposed Rand Paul’s candidacy in favor of Trey Grayson in his home state of Kentucky. More recently, McConnell’s allies viciously attacked Alabama conservative Mo Brooks’ candidacy for Senate in favor of Luther Strange, which opened the door for Roy Moore to win the nomination before his campaign imploded with credible allegations of sexual misconduct with minors. Does anyone seriously believe Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., would have lost to a Democrat statewide in Alabama?
McConnell doesn’t protect the Senate majority by interfering in primaries. He’d like you to believe he does, but the truth is he is cynically protecting his own position in leadership at the expense of the conservative agenda. The GOP majority may survive. But what is it really accomplishing under McConnell’s leadership?
Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in politics and economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are conservative political philosophy, the American founding, and progressive rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.
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