Sens. Hawley, Rubio Question Mitch McConnell’s Leadership

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Josh Hawley of Missouri are questioning the GOP’s leadership in the upper chamber, in the latest example of fallout from the party’s weak midterm performance.

Control of the Senate will likely hinge on a run-off in Georgia, where Republican challenger Herschel Walker trailed incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock by some 35,000 votes as of 1:30 p.m. Friday. Senate races in Nevada and Arizona remain too close to call, with Republican challenger Adam Laxalt leads incumbent Democratic Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto by just under 9,000 votes with 90% of votes counted, while Republican Blake Masters trails Democratic Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly by roughly 115,000 with 82% of the vote in.

Democrats already flipped outgoing Republican Sen. Pat Toomey’s seat Pennsylvania, and endangered incumbent Maggie Hassan managed to hang on in New Hampshire.

The Senate GOP leadership vote next week should be postponed,” Rubio tweeted. “First we need to make sure that those who want to lead us are genuinely committed to fighting for the priorities & values of the working Americans (of every background) who gave us big wins in states like Florida.”

Florida Sen. Rick Scott reportedly prepared an official challenge to Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell as Republican Senate leader, including a launch video. However, he did not announce, owing to the poor performance of nominees like Walker, Masters and Don Bolduc in New Hampshire, according to Politico. McConnell and Scott feuded throughout the 2022 election cycle on financial and political strategy, with the Kentuckian questioning the quality of several candidates.

“Republicans just said, ‘Well, the other side sucks, and Biden sucks.’ Well, no doubt! But it’s pretty hard to convince folks, particularly independent-minded ones who don’t tend to trust the process much, to vote for you, if you don’t have something affirmative to say and offer,” Hawley told RealClearPolitics.

If Masters, Walker and Laxalt all ultimately emerge victorious, Republicans would hold 51 Senate seats. FiveThirtyEight projected that the GOP would win 52, while RealClearPolitics predicted 53.

“I lay that at the feet of the Washington establishment that set the tone for these races,” Hawley explained. “They failed to offer that kind of vision.” (RELATED: Mitch McConnell Sounds The Alarm On Republicans’ Senate Chances)

McConnell only needs to win a simple majority vote to remain Senate Republican leader, and he is likely to do so. He would pass Democratic Montana Sen. Mike Mansfield as the longest-serving party leader in Senate history if he holds the position through 2024.