There’s a growing sense among Capitol Hill insiders that, should there be a process to replace Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the effort will be “rigged” against populist or outsider candidates.
During a July press conference on Capitol Hill, McConnell appeared to freeze up and had to be ushered away by other Senate Republicans. Later in August, McConnell froze up again during a press conference in Kentucky. McConnell has since been cleared by the Capitol’s attending physician, Dr. Brian Monahan, who ruled out a stroke, seizure disorder, or signs of Parkinson’s disease.
The senator, who took office in 1985, has said he will continue to serve as minority leader and will also serve out the rest of his Senate term.
The Daily Caller spoke with a number of Senate staffers, current and former, about a possible McConnell replacement. The Caller granted anonymity to allow discussion on a sensitive topic.
“It’s almost impossible for an outsider to win leadership races these days with how much money is controlled by the party leaders on all sides, but the issue is particularly acute with McConnell in the Senate. He’s basically the most — at least to the base — the most unimpressive leader that we’ve had in previous decades. However, he is the longest-serving Republican leader or any party leader in the Senate, based primarily on the fact that he controls about a half a billion dollars every cycle in campaign funds,” a former Senate aide told the Caller.
“So if you want to get elected to the Senate, the majority of the money to run for Senate is controlled exclusively by Mitch McConnell. Rick Scott already did challenge him. I don’t know if he’s currently running, but he did run against him. He put his reputation on the line. I don’t know if the pain was so severe, that he would decline to do so again, but I can tell you there’s not even going to be much of a race. It’s going to be John Thune,” the former aide continued, referring to South Dakota Sen. John Thune.
“It’s going to be one of the Johns. The process is essentially rigged, where an outsider could not emerge with enough votes. Even if someone did try to challenge the establishment, it would be impossible for that person to win. McConnell has too much money behind him. It will either be Thune or Cornyn, but most likely Thune,” a current Senate aide told the Caller, referring to Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. (RELATED: Here Is Who Will Likely Replace McConnell As GOP Senate Leader)
No Republicans have yet come out to say they will try to replace McConnell as Minority Leader if he steps down. Thus far, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley has been the only Senate Republican to say he does not believe McConnell should be the leader and that he is concerned about McConnell’s ability to do his job. Hawley is up for reelection in 2024.
“If you’re concerned about conservative policy, and Senate leadership delivering policy wins, a change at the top isn’t going to necessarily deliver that. The outcome of a leadership fight has been essentially baked for years—either Thune or Cornyn will almost certainly take the helm. Barrasso would be a solid replacement, as a good conservative vote on a lot of issues, but likely another Senator would win out,” a different current Senate aide said, referring to Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming.
“It’s Thune or Cornyn. I think McConnell world prefers Thune but Cornyn is a better fundraiser and legislator so I wouldn’t count him out,” another former Senate aide told the Caller.
“Someone might but the rules are rigged. If it was a plurality vote, someone might do it and could win but at some point it will be a head to head vote and McConnell will make sure he has the votes to get whatever moderate he can get,” the former aide added.
The Caller contacted McConnell’s office about a possible replacement for Minority Leader, to which they referred to his past comments in which he said, “I’m going to finish my term as leader, and I’m going to finish my Senate term.”