Asked whether he would support Trump as the Republican presidential nominee in 2024 during a Thursday interview, the Kentucky senator answered readily in the affirmative.
“The nominee of the party? Absolutely,” McConnell told Fox’s Bret Baier, but added “There’s a lot to happen between now and 2024. I’ve got at least four members that I think are planning on running for president, plus some governors and others.”
While it’s unclear what prompted McConnell’s apparent change in attitude toward Trump after weeks of infighting, a poll conducted by Suffolk University and USA Today last weekend found that 46 percent of rank-and-file Republicans would abandon their party if Trump were to form his own. Just 27 percent vowed to remain loyal to the GOP, indicating a major split within the org and potentially explaining the senator’s sudden about-face.
The Senate minority leader’s comments followed a bitter dispute with Trump in recent weeks, in which McConnell accused the former president of a “disgraceful dereliction of duty” over his actions leading up to the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill, for which he was impeached by the Democrat-majority House. While McConnell ultimately voted to acquit, he nonetheless blasted Trump for “false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole” while insisting he was “practically and morally responsible” for provoking the unrest.
Trump shot back at those charges in a blistering letter last week, calling McConnell “a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack,” also saying “the Republican Party can never again be respected or strong with political ‘leaders’ like Sen. Mitch McConnell at its helm.”
“McConnell’s dedication to business as usual, status quo policies, together with his lack of political insight, wisdom, skill, and personality, has rapidly driven him from Majority Leader to Minority Leader, and it will only get worse.”
In his first pair of interviews after leaving office last month, Trump said he would not rule out a 2024 presidential bid, adding that the poll numbers in his favor were “through the roof” and showed “tremendous support.” However, he noted it was still too early to discuss the next race, declining to commit to another run just yet.
McConnell sought to dismiss divisions among Republicans during Thursday’s interview. Asked by Baier whether there is a civil war within the GOP, the senator insisted the party is “actually in very good shape.”
“The Republican Party had a very good day on November 3,” he went on. “We’re sorry we lost the White House, but the Republican Party demonstrated once again [that] this is a 50/50 nation, we are very competitive and will be competitive again in ’22” for the next congressional race.
Instead, McConnell argued the ‘civil war’ label is more appropriate for Democrats, pointing to progressives in the House making it “extremely difficult” for party leadership to operate given their narrow margin in Congress.
Nonetheless, the senator closed out the interview with a call for unity among Republicans, urging them to set aside their differences for now and keep the focus on 2022.
“What I would say to everybody who’s inclined to support our right-of-center Republican Party, let’s focus on winning the House and the Senate in ‘22,” McConnell said. “That will set up the next nominee for president, whoever that may be, with the best chance to be victorious.”
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