I would say this is writing on the wall for Mitch McConnell…in great, big red letters.
The Hill asked nearly two dozen GOP Senate candidates if they would support McConnell for majority leader if they were elected. Not one campaign said they would.
Several candidates declared their opposition to McConnell and attacked their GOP primary opponents for not taking a stance on the question. Other candidates deflected, or spoke on background about the bind they’re in over the question of McConnell’s leadership. Most candidates were eager to avoid the question entirely, and ignored multiple requests for comment.
The candidate survey underscores the tricky balancing act facing Republican Senate candidates in 2018, which is shaping up to be a proxy war between the party establishment and its grassroots base.
Times have changed and McConnell isn’t changing with them.
“Ten years ago when you ran campaigns, especially after 9/11, it was all about leadership. You could talk about your role in Congress in making things better,” one top aide to a GOP Senate campaign told The Hill. “Now Republican voters want to burn the place down, so you have more of a tightrope.”
In primary races in Ohio and Missouri, candidates with crossover appeal between the grassroots and the establishment have both declined to endorse McConnell but are under fire from their Republican opponents nonetheless.
There are very few candidates who can truly bridge that chasm and still have the trust of both sides. And support for or opposition to McConnell appears to be the major litmus test for candidates.