Warnock, Ossoff to be sworn into Senate Wednesday afternoon
Poll: GOP voters want McConnell to step down
A majority of GOP voters say Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) should resign as majority leader, according to a new poll.
The survey from Harvard-Harris Poll also found that the Republican Party's approval rating has hit a new low, amid widespread intraparty dissatisfaction with congressional leadership.
The poll found that 56 percent of Republicans say McConnell should resign as majority leader. McConnell has the worst approval rating of any politician in the survey, at 16 percent favorable and 52 unfavorable.
The frustration among Republican voters with McConnell and what they view as the Senate's inability to deliver on long-standing GOP campaign promises has also dragged the Republican Party's approval rating to new lows.
Twenty-nine percent approve of the job Republicans are doing, with only a slim majority of GOP voters - 53 percent - saying they approve. That stands in contrast to the Democratic Party, which has a 39 percent approval rating and is viewed favorably by 68 percent of its voters.
Only 39 percent of Republicans say GOP leaders in Congress represent their views, while 40 percent say their leaders have views that are more liberal than their own.
Sixty-eight percent of Republicans say GOP leaders are dividing the party, and 76 percent say the leaders have fallen out of touch with the concerns of ordinary Republican voters.
Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and his allies are seeking to capitalize on that anti-establishment sentiment by recruiting challengers to every Republican incumbent up for reelection in 2018, with the exception of Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas).
Bannon is asking the candidates he meets with to oppose McConnell as majority leader. But the Breitbart News chairman polls as his Senate nemesis does, with only 16 percent having a favorable view of him and 47 percent viewing him negatively.
Among Republicans, though, 61 percent say they support Bannon's "movement to oust Republicans who fail to support tax cuts, tough immigration policies, and the repeal of Obamacare." Fifty-six percent say Bannon's efforts will make the party stronger.
President Trump has largely escaped the ire of GOP voters. While his approval rating clocked in at 42 percent in October, which is low for a president this early in his first term, Trump's job approval stands at 80 percent among Republicans.
"The Republican Party is at war with its traditional leadership and Trump and Bannon are winning in this unprecedented schism," said Harvard-Harris Poll co-director Mark Penn. "The Republican elites appear broadly out of touch with the base of the party - it explains why Trump so easily beat all the establishment candidates in 2016. But they need each other, and unless they find common directions in tax reform and on investigations, they will both weaken the other."
Still, Republicans are split over efforts to move the party further to the right, with only 51 percent saying it's a winning move. Forty-two percent say they're worried that right-leaning movements could hurt the party's chances of winning the next presidential election, with 31 percent saying it will help and 27 saying it would have no impact.
That's the argument McConnell and his allies are making as they seek to reelect GOP incumbents and squash the insurgent candidates they fear could win primaries but lose winnable general election races against Democrats.
In an interview on "Fox News Sunday," McConnell called Bannon and his allies "specialists in defeating Republican candidates."
"That's what this intraparty skirmish is about," McConnell said. "Our goal is to nominate people in the primaries next year who can actually win, and the people who win will be the ones who enact the president's agenda."
The McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund spent heavily on the Alabama Senate GOP primary in support of incumbent Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.), only to see him trounced by the Breitbart-backed candidate, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore.
McConnell and his allies, including GOP strategist Karl Rove, who oversees the big-spending super PAC American Crossroads GPS, are furious with Bannon for sowing what they view as needless division and endangering the party's slim majority in the upper chamber.
In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal last week, Rove accused Bannon of waging a "jihad against incumbent Republicans" and trashed his candidates as a "collection of misfits and ne'er-do-wells."
McConnell's allies are also pushing back at the notion that he is as unpopular as polling suggests or that his leadership has become a flashpoint for GOP Senate hopefuls.
In interviews, McConnell's supporters have argued that national approval numbers are meaningless for congressional leaders.
Furthermore, they're frustrated that McConnell has become a point of issue among the GOP's Senate hopefuls and puzzled about why prospective candidates would be taking positions on hypothetical leadership votes before they've even been elected.
The Hill reached out to about two dozen Republican campaigns for Senate, and none of the candidates responded to say they would support McConnell for leader if elected.
"I'm not going to be on the ballot on any of the states, and I don't think the candidates who are running need to take a position on me," McConnell said on "Fox News Sunday." "People in those states are interested in what the candidates can do for them and for the country. "
The Harvard-Harris Poll online survey of 2,159 registered voters was conducted between Oct. 14 and Oct. 18. The partisan breakdown is 36 percent Democrat, 32 percent Republican, 28 percent independent and 4 percent other.
The Harvard-Harris Poll is a collaboration of the Harvard Center for American Political Studies and The Harris Poll. The Hill will be working with Harvard-Harris Poll throughout 2017.
Full poll results will be posted online later this week. The Harvard-Harris Poll survey is an online sample drawn from the Harris Panel and weighted to reflect known demographics. As a representative online sample, it does not report a probability confidence interval.