It didn’t take long for the Republican establishment to come up with three reasons behind the party’s disappointing results in the 2022 midterms: Trump, Trump and Trump.
GOP Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri has a different explanation, though. In an appearance on Fox News on Monday, the Senate heavyweight pointed fingers at the party establishment, saying the disappointing results were proof that “Washington Republicanism” needed to “come to an end.”
“We need good, strong, independent leadership that actually listens to voters and doesn’t just listen to the Washington lobbyists,” Hawley told Tulsi Gabbard, the former Democratic presidential candidate and fill-in host on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
“I’ll just tell you, when it comes to the GOP, the Washington Republicanism that cares more about Wall Street than it does about working people, it’s time for that to come to an end.”
Hawley added that the message from the average American was obvious — and that, had the GOP followed it, they’d be in control of the Senate and flipped even more House seats.
“What voters are asking us to do is pretty clear: Secure our streets. You know, let’s put new cops on the street, 100,000 of them,” Hawley said. “Secure the borders, stop the indoctrination of our children and bring jobs back to this country.
“It used to be, you could support a family on one good wage. You can’t do that anymore in this country because of the ruinous trade policies that unfortunately both parties have supported. That has got to come to an end. Republicans have got to be the party of working people and working class culture,” he added.
Instead, the party couldn’t get out the voters needed to flip key seats.
“If you look at who didn’t show up, Tulsi, you’ve got independents who don’t like Joe Biden and they voted for President Obama back in the day, they voted for President Trump, but they looked at the options this year and they’re like, ‘Eh, I don’t like Biden at all and I don’t like the Democrats, but I don’t trust the Republicans,’” Hawley said.
“Why? Because the Republicans weren’t offering anything, they weren’t saying we’re going to secure the border, they weren’t saying we’ll put cops on the street. We’ve got to go out there and make that case.”
“We need new leadership in the Republican Party in Washington,” Hawley added. “This is why I will not support Mitch McConnell for leader. We need new leadership but we also need real convictions. That’s what we have got to be about going forward.”
Hawley’s pledge not to support the Kentucky Republican for another round as the party’s Senate leader is the latest sign of discontent directed toward McConnell after the poor results in last week’s midterms.
On Friday, Arizona senatorial candidate Blake Masters slammed the Senate minority leader for failing to direct campaign money at his race against Democrat Sen. Mark Kelly. Kelly would eventually be declared the winner, depriving the GOP of a key potential pickup.
“The people who control the purse strings, Senate Leadership Fund, Mitch McConnell — McConnell decided to spend millions of dollars attacking a fellow Republican in Alaska instead of helping me defeat Senator Mark Kelly,” Masters said, according to The Hill.
“Had he chosen to spend money in Arizona, this race would be over we’d be celebrating a Senate majority right now.”
Masters was referring to McConnell’s decision to spend money to defend incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski in a RINO-vs.-Republican matchup in Alaska.
According to Axios, McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund PAC decided to run $5 million of ads in the state to prop Murkowski up against conservative challenger Kelly Tshibaka. (As of Wednesday morning, with 90 percent of the vote counted, Tshibaka narrowly led Murkowski 43.3 percent to 43.1 percent.)
As for Arizona, however, McConnell engaged in a high-profile argument with venture capitalist and Masters supporter Peter Thiel over who should support the candidate financially over the final few months of the campaign.
After Thiel rebuffed a request to fund another candidate he supported in the primaries, Ohio senator-elect J.D. Vance, in the general election so that McConnell could divert resources elsewhere, The Washington Post reported that the minority leader and his PAC acted “to abandon about $8 million worth of TV, radio and digital ads originally booked to boost Masters.”
Would that have made a difference? We don’t know, but McConnell and GOP Sen. Rick Scott, the Florida Republican in charge of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, are now bickering through surrogates about which leader was responsible for the failures last Tuesday.
Republican strategist John Holmes, a former McConnell chief of staff, told The Wall Street Journal that the NRSC “was run basically as a Rick Scott super PAC, where they didn’t want or need to input any Republican senators whatsoever.”
Meanwhile, Chris Hartline, a spokesman for the NRSC, said McConnell and his allies were “constantly trashing our candidates publicly and privately, and telling donors not to give to us or our campaigns.”
The Journal noted that “McConnell had publicly questioned candidate quality for some Republican hopefuls, seen as a shot at both Mr. Scott and former President Donald Trump.”
On Tuesday, Sen. Scott announced that he would challenge McConnell for Senate minority leader. “I believe it’s time for the Senate Republican Conference to be far more bold and resolute than we have been in the past. We must start saying what we are for, not just what we are against,” Scott wrote in a letter to his colleagues, according to Reuters.
Will that strike a blow against the “Washington Republicanism” that Hawley was railing against? At the very least, Scott says he’s determined to avoid the internecine squabbles between the GOP establishment and conservative outsiders that have been the hallmark of McConnell’s tenure.
Whether the latest series of “candidate quality” gripes and passive-aggressive campaign spending were responsible for failing to recapture the upper chamber is anyone’s guess, but McConnell’s public laments about Masters and other eventual Election Day losers didn’t help matters any, certainly.
And, while last week’s failures can’t be attributed to any single cause, there’s no doubt that the GOP failed under thoroughly establishment leadership. If the Sanhedrin of “Washington Republicanism” won’t fall on their own swords over the 2022 fiasco, it would behoove their fellow party members to give them a strong push, instead.
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