Donald Trump, being the authoritarian megalomaniac he is, is demanding that Senate candidates be total Trumpers. The problem for Mitch McConnell and fellow Republicans is that the seats that are being challenged in 2020 are in not-total-Trump territory. Watching current Senate Republicans try to navigate that problem is probably the only joy one can get from the Senate right now.
Take his latest, ultimately unsuccessful meddling in the soon-to-be open Senate seat in Georgia, to which he was demanding that Rep. Doug Collins, most recently screaming his staccato defense of Trump in the House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing, be appointed. He lost, in large part because Georgia Republicans recognize that their state is dangerously close (for them) to turning purple. Team Trump was so against the appointment of the eventual designee, Atlanta businesswoman Kelly Loeffler, that Sean Hannity organized a wingnut calling campaign into Gov. Brian Kemp's office and wrote about it on Fox News. "Conservatives warn the appointment―just weeks before a potential impeachment trial―could seriously harm the White House's efforts to end the Democrats' ongoing Ukraine hearings and other pointless investigations," Hannity's people wrote, according to HuffPost. As if any new Republican senator wasn't going to vote to acquit.
Senate Republicans willing to talk about it are tiptoeing around this fight. "I think the most important thing is to win and I would hope that everybody on my side of the aisle would be committed to choosing candidates who can do that," Texas Sen. John Cornyn said. "You can't stop people from expressing their preference but I respect the role of [Kemp] in making that choice." No, you can't, but the "people" in this case include your president. The other Georgia senator and major Trump booster, David Perdue, gave a tepid response, calling the decision a "healthy process" and saying, "I look forward to working with Kelly Loeffler, my new partner in the U.S. Senate, to continue [the] positive change for Georgia and our country." Rousing endorsement there, but one he has to make, as much as Trump is going to hate it.
It goes beyond Georgia. In New Hampshire, Trump is trying to boost his old friend and campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to run against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. But New Hampshire Republicans want Don Bolduc, a retired Army brigadier general. Gov Chris Sununu, a Republican, doesn't want to have to run for reelection with Lewandowski on the ballot with him. Kansas Republicans are trying to figure out if anyone should run for the seat from which GOP Sen. Pat Roberts is retiring because of the noises Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been making about returning to the state to run for it. Trump has been impossible to pin down on Pompeo and whether he's in or out of favor.
McConnell and team won round one in Georgia, and Trump has been so distracted by his NATO humiliation and impeachment that he hasn't raised hell about it yet. But as the pressure builds, this fissure will grow. Which is no more than Moscow Mitch deserves.
Published with permission from Daily Kos.