‘Morning Joe’: Time for McConnell, Cornyn to lose their Senate leadership posts?

Jeff Poor | Media Reporter

Overshadowed by the fallout of Tuesday night’s presidential election was the lackluster performance put up by Republican senatorial candidates, which after the 2010 midterm election is the second election cycle in a row that the GOP seems to have under-performed.

On Friday’s broadcast of “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, “Daily Rundown” anchor and NBC White House correspondent Chuck Todd posed a question: In the wake of these results, is it time for someone other than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn to lead the Republicans in the U.S. Senate?

“You know what sort of shocks me?” Todd said. “Fifteen years ago if the Republicans had gotten the results that they have gotten, the leaders of the Senate Republicans would be asked to step aside. They’d be saying, ‘You know what? You’ve had your chance. You blew it two cycles in a row. You blew it. And we’re in the position we’re in.’ I find it striking that’s not happening. I mean, not only that, Mitch McConnell is likely to get re-elected as Senate Republican leader, and John Cornyn’s going to get promoted.”

Cornyn is expected to become the Senate Minority Whip, filling a vacancy to be left behind by outgoing Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl.

However, “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough said Republicans would be wary of such a move, led by the more conservative wing of the Republican Party — including South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

“But Chuck, you know, if you’re making the argument against Mitch McConnell, you’re probably making the argument from the more conservative wing of the Republican Party,” Scarborough replied. “It’s Jim DeMint that would be making that argument. And we’ve talked about losers in this campaign. You want to look at the candidates that Jim DeMint backed in the primary process?”

Todd argued there were more moderate voices that could raise concern over McConnell’s and Cornyn’s leadership. But McConnell is facing reelection in 2014, he said, which could affect his governance of a caucus that needs to work across the aisle.

“Well, no, but if I were Bob Corker or Lamar Alexander or some of these other legislative — Rob Portman, what I call conservatives that actually want to legislate, right? There are sort of two wings of the Senate Republican conference these days —  your legislating conservatives and your conservatives that just want to blow up the process, Rand Paul, Jim DeMint, folks like that,” Todd replied. “I wonder if Mitch McConnell’s approach over the last two years was the right approach because that approach didn’t work. That’s my point here.

“And the question is, is McConnell going to change his approach in negotiating and in dealing with the president and in dealing with Harry Reid and in dealing with John Boehner, or is he going to go down the same road?” Todd continued. “McConnell’s up for re-election. He’s got to worry about a primary challenge. He’s got to worry about a general election challenge. I’m just saying, it is curious to me that McConnell actually is not getting touched here.”

Time magazine’s Mark Halperin also questioned the Cornyn promotion, to which Scarborough responded that some of those candidates, including Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, weren’t Cornyn’s first choices. But Halperin reminded Scarborough that Cornyn backed losing candidates as well.

“I agree with Chuck,” Halperin said. “It’s a bit of inside baseball, but Cornyn getting promoted is an unbelievable thing given what happened. I’m a fan of John Cornyn’s, but his record in the senate races speaks for itself. And the fact that people are just saying yeah, let him move up, unbelievable.”

“People inside the Senate know that John Cornyn did not want Todd Akin to win the primary,” Scarborough said. “John Cornyn did not want Mourdock to win the primary.”

“But some of his candidates did lose as well,” Halperin added.

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