Trump’s attack on Elaine Chao reignites feud with McConnell

Former President Trump reignited his feud with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) over the weekend, as Republican concerns begin to grow over whether the party can swing the Senate in red in November.

In a statement from Truth Social on SaturdayTrump slammed McConnell, whom he called a ‘broken politician’, for his recent remarks about some GOP Senate candidates, before lashing out at his ‘crazy wife’, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao , who served in the Trump administration before resigning a day after the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.

“Why are Republican senators allowing a broke politician, Mitch McConnell, to openly disparage hard-working Republican candidates for the United States Senate,” Trump wrote on Truth Social.

“It’s such an affront to honor and leadership. He should be spending more time (and money!) helping them get elected, and less time helping his crazy wife and family get elected. get rich in China!” he added.

The dig by Chao, who before the Trump administration served as Secretary of Labor for eight years under former President George W. Bush, was likely a reference to his family’s shipping company, Foremost Group, which has ties with China.

The Transport Department’s inspector general had previously discovered that Chao was using his department’s personnel for matters related to the family business. The watchdog referred the situation to the Justice Department, which declined to investigate Chao.

Trump is using the news more than a year ago as fodder for his latest attack on McConnell, Chao’s husband of 29 years, continuing his crusade against the longtime Republican leader, whom he has taunted since quitting. first presented for the presidency in 2016.

But the latest iteration of the clash comes at a particularly precarious time for the Republican Party, which is fighting tooth and nail to seize control of the Senate, as the once high odds of a GOP takeover have seemingly diminished in recent years. weeks.

McConnell said in November that the upcoming midterm elections would be “very good” for Republicans, citing President Biden’s low approval rating, but he has since toned that down, reversing that once optimistic outlook on concerns over the “quality of candidates”.

Trump’s statement on Saturday came shortly after that recent prognosis.

But this is not the first time that Trump has targeted the spouse of an elected official.

During the 2016 GOP primary, Trump threatened to ‘spill the beans’ on the wife of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), whom he was running against, in response to a campaign ad — which had no no known connection to Cruz – which featured his wife, Melania Trump.

Trump even lashed out at the wife of one of his own advisers when he called Kellyanne Conway’s husband George Conway “a total loser” and “husband from hell” after George Conway suggested that Trump was unsuited to serve as president.

In Kentucky last week, McConnell told reporters the House was more likely to go red than the Senate, concluding that the upper house’s final split after the November races would be “very tight.”

“I think there’s probably a better chance of the House tipping over than the Senate. Senate races are just different — they’re statewide, the quality of the candidates has a lot to do with the outcome,” McConnell said, according to NBC News.

Republican strategist Scott Jennings, who previously worked with McConnell, said Trump’s statement on Saturday is another example of the former president placing himself at the center of a race, which in turn negatively impacts the party .

“If Donald Trump has invaded your messaging calendar for the day to grind an ax on Mitch McConnell, or to make everyone think Republicans are fighting, then you’ve wasted the day,” Jennings told The Hill.

Democrats are currently favored to take control of the Senate over Republicans in November, 63% to 37%, according to FiveThirtyEight.

McConnell’s mention of “candidate quality” was a veiled reference to Trump-backed Senate candidates in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia and Arizona who have struggled to edge out their Democratic challengers in recent polls, sparking concern among Republicans seeking to take control of the Senate 50-50.

These GOP nominees — namely Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and Herschel Walker in Georgia — have also been caught up in various scandals and controversies, further tarnishing their candidacies as the year draws closer to November.

But McConnell is still helping some of those candidates get elected regardless of his stated concerns in a bid to take control of the chamber and crown himself majority leader again.

Last week the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the McConnell lined up The Senate Leadership Fund was spending $28 million on TV and radio ads for “Hillbilly Elegy” author JD Vance, who is running against Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) in Buckeye State.

And McConnell endorsed Walker in his bid against Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.).

With control of the Senate hanging in the balance and Republicans determined to tilt the upper house in their direction, GOP strategists say Trump’s recent criticism of McConnell is not helpful for the party as it works towards the midterm elections.

“Republicans should basically focus on three things: inflation, rising crime, and the border situation. Whenever time is spent on these three issues, Republicans are not offended,” strategist Doug Heye, who previously served as communications director for the Republican National Committee, told The Hill.

“And when they fight each other because Trump has once again inserted himself into the conversation, it doesn’t help any of these candidates to remind voters why they should run in the first place,” he added. .

Jennings, the GOP strategist who is a partner at RunSwitch Public Relations, said he believes Trump’s statement was an attempt to pre-but the losses of his hand-picked candidates as they struggle to edge out their opponents. democrats.

“I think what’s going on in Trump World is pretty obvious – they’ve named a bunch of people who are all having trouble in their races, and people are starting to wonder if they can win. And he tries to predict their losses by blaming everyone but himself,” Jennings said.

He drew a direct contrast between Trump and McConnell.

“I would just like to refer you to, what is useful for the midterm? Air cover, courier and McConnell provides both. What is useless for the medium term? Fight and place grievances Donald Trump’s 2020 elections at the center of his, your strategy,” Jennings said.

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