Since leaving the White House, former President Donald Trump has been continuing his feud with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, even going so far as to gloat about McConnell’s low approval ratings.
On Thursday, McConnell escalated… and Trump wasn’t happy.
McConnell disparaged the “candidate quality” of some Republican nominees struggling in the polls.
“I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate. Senate races are just different — they’re statewide, candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome,” McConnell told reporters at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in the Kentucky suburbs.
McConnell neglected to name any candidates by name.
Still, he was presumed to be referring to Trump’s preferred candidates, like Blake Masters in Arizona and Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania.
“Polls show Republican candidates struggling in some states — such as Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania — that are key for McConnell’s path back to majority leader,” The Washington Post reported, after recounting McConnell’s remark.
McConnell continued, “Right now, we have a 50-50 Senate and a 50-50 country, but I think when all is said and done this fall, we’re likely to have an extremely close Senate, either our side up slightly or their side up slightly.”
Trump had something to say, and he made it personal.
The former president even mentioned McConnell’s wife, former Cabinet member Elaine Chao.
“Why do Republicans Senators allow a broken down hack politician, Mitch McConnell, to openly disparage hard working Republican candidates for the United States Senate,” Trump wrote via Truth Social on Saturday.
“This is such an affront to honor and to leadership. He should spend more time (and money!) helping them get elected, and less time helping his crazy wife and family get rich on China!”
Elaine Chao served as transportation secretary under Trump. She resigned in early 2021.
Some Senate candidates took McConnell’s remark on the chin.
On Friday, Arizona’s Blake Masters hoped for McConnell will back his close campaign in Arizona, striking a magnanimous tone toward the GOP leader he fiercely criticized during the primary.
“I think he’ll come in and spend. Arizona’s gonna be competitive. It’s gonna be a close race, and I hope he does come in,” Masters told The Associated Press during a brief interview following a roundtable with construction industry leaders outside Phoenix. “And we’ll find a way to work together.”
Masters spoke a day after McConnell’s remark about “candidate quality.” The Arizona candidate is relying on national Republicans to make up for a severe financial deficit against Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, one of the most prolific fundraisers in the Senate who collected nearly $55 million through the end of June. Masters reported raising $5 million.
The McConnell-controlled Senate Leadership Fund bought $28 million in advertising to boost Republican J.D. Vance in Ohio, a seat many Republicans thought to be safe. Vance, like Masters, won his primary with millions of dollars in support from billionaire Peter Thiel but has lagged his Democratic rival in fundraising.
Masters said he’s “not Mitch McConnell’s favorite candidate,” but they’ll manage to get along.
“He wants to win Arizona,” Masters said. “I think I’m a much better candidate than Mitch McConnell gives me credit for.”
During the primary, Masters called for McConnell to be replaced as GOP leader, saying he’d support Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri or Tom Cotton of Arkansas for the position. McConnell was a roadblock to enacting parts of Trump’s agenda, he said.
“I’ll tell Mitch this to his face,” Masters said during a GOP primary debate in June. “He’s not bad at everything. He’s good at judges. He’s good at blocking Democrats. You know what he’s not good at? Legislating.”
On Friday, Masters predicted McConnell will get another term as GOP leader and no Republicans will challenge him.
“I think he’ll be in charge. And I’m not just going to be a senator that falls in line to whatever he says,” Masters told construction company officials. “I’ll hear him out. I’m happy to listen. But my vote doesn’t belong to Mitch McConnell. It doesn’t belong to Donald Trump.”
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article.