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Juan Williams: Trump rains on McConnell’s parade

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) must be going crazy. 

The 80-year-old wants to go out on top — in position to retire after nearly 40 years in the Senate —as leader of a Republican majority. 

He is so close, but McConnell’s victory parade can’t get going. 

Despite pandering to Trump and his violent followers in the name of keeping GOP voters together, McConnell is not being rewarded. 

First, he didn’t vote to convict former President Trump after Trump was impeached for inciting the insurrection. Then he kiboshed a proposed independent commission to look at the attack on the Capitol. He even said he would “absolutely” support Trump in 2024 if the former president becomes the GOP nominee. 

But Trump and Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, are holding up McConnell’s victory parade. 

Trump and Scott are all about Senate candidates who appeal to the Trump base on right-wing talk shows and websites. 

McConnell recently warned against candidates who are “just sort of unacceptable to a broader group of people” — by which he meant the swing voters who decide statewide, U.S. Senate elections. 

McConnell, who was speaking to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, also said he was “optimistic” that the GOP will find “fully electable” candidates. 

The New York Times reported in February that McConnell privately referred to radical right-wing candidates as “goofballs,” and promised to find better contenders. 

But it’s getting late. 

Suddenly, McConnell is mentioning the ghosts of past failure. He reminded the Kentucky chamber that Republicans have a recent history of nominating some “bizarre people” who lose. 

That is a polite way of saying that McConnell gets heartburn when Trump endorses figures like author J.D. Vance in Ohio’s Republican Senate primary. 

In endorsing Vance, Trump snubbed candidates with a better chance to attract general election voters. 

McConnell initially encouraged Vance to run but refrained from formally endorsing him. Now Vance is running as the candidate who declared a Trump-like lack of interest in the fate of Ukraine right before Russia’s destructive, murderous invasion — and did so in a state where tens of thousands of Ukrainian-Americans live. 

Meanwhile, McConnell’s bid to attract other winning candidates is stuck in the mud. 

Two popular Republican governors, Chris Sununu in New Hampshire and Larry Hogan in Maryland, rebuffed requests to run for Senate, apparently lacking the stomach for dealing with the demands of Trump’s far- right acolytes. 

The same is true in Arizona, where Gov. Doug Ducey, a two-term governor who is chair of the Republican Governors Association, turned down offers to run against the Democratic incumbent, Sen. Mark Kelly. 

“MAGA will never accept RINO Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona running for the U.S. Senate,” Trump said earlier this year, using a disparaging label that stands for ‘Republican In Name Only.’ 

Then the former president added a message for McConnell: “So save your time, money and energy, Mitch.”

Then there are the Trump candidates that are running.

In Georgia, Trump has endorsed former NFL player Herschel Walker in the GOP Senate primary. The winner will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. 

If Walker does not fit McConnell’s cautionary description of a “bizarre” candidate, it is hard to imagine who does. 

Walker acknowledges he suffers from mental illness — the condition once known as multiple personality disorder, now termed dissociative identity disorder. He has been accused of domestic violence.  

He once tweeted that Trump needed to “get to the bottom of who stole” the 2020 election, and he has called for a “total cleansing” of America by Trump and his supporters. 

In the race for Senate in North Carolina, Trump-endorsed candidate Rep. Ted Budd is leading in the GOP primary polls against former Gov. Pat McCrory. Budd voted against certifying the 2020 election results.

In Alabama, Trump withdrew his endorsement of Rep. Mo Brooks for Senate after Brooks said it was time to move on from talk that the 2020 election was stolen. 

In Pennsylvania, Trump is backing television personality Mehmet Oz for Senate.

“If we don’t deal with the election fraud issue, I might not win in November,” Oz said recently, echoing Trump. “We are doing things to watch the polls…and we are going to pass a voter ID law.”  

According to the Washington Post, sources close to Trump have heard him say of his pick backing Oz, “I’m a gambler.” 

Yes, and he is gambling with McConnell’s legacy.  

McConnell has been through this before.

In 2010, when Republicans gained a House majority, they failed to win the Senate because of candidates such as Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell. She felt the need to declare to voters: “I’m not a witch.” 

In 2012, Republican candidates included Indiana’s Richard Mourdock and Missouri’s Todd Akin. Mourdock said he opposed abortion because rape could be ordained by God. Akin suggested women’s bodies could shut down the chances of becoming pregnant in instances of “legitimate rape.” 

O’Donnell, Mourdock and Akin all lost seats that were winnable for Republicans. 

Well, history sure looks like it is repeating itself in 2022. 

Meanwhile, Scott is putting out an agenda for a future GOP Senate majority that risks turning off most voters. 

Scott’s plan includes levying income tax on those Americans who currently do not pay any. It would also mandate expiration dates for all laws, including Social Security and Medicare — popular programs with seniors, who are a core voting group. 

McConnell declared his opposition to Scott’s agenda. But he has no agenda of his own.  

At best, he stands for winning by excusing violence by the Trump base and excusing Trump’s attempt to overthrow the government. 

Maybe McConnell’s legacy will be created, and his parade will begin, the day he stands up to Trump — if that day ever comes. 

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

Tags 2022 midterm elections 2022 Senate races Doug Ducey Herschel Walker Juan Williams Mark Kelly Rick Scott

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