WASHINGTON — A forced reckoning over a poor election performance has ruptured the Republican Party, sparking conflict at the highest levels over what went wrong and spurring challenges to the top two GOP leaders in Congress while the party grapples with whether to nominate Donald Trump for president again in 2024.
Nov. 18, 2022
3 min read
Republican infighting escalates over poor 2022 election results as Trump re-emerges
Former US President, Donald Trump
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“I’m a physician, so I would say when the patient dies, you do an autopsy. So this is, in effect, the post-mortem,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., arguing that the party must move on from Trump after it "underperformed" in the midterms.
“We need to have a message which looks to the future, which addresses the needs of the American people, doesn’t focus upon times past, and doesn’t focus on a single individual,” he said.
But party leaders disagree about what went wrong. While some blame Trump's continued dominance over the party for pushing away independent voters, others say the Republican leaders were timid and failed to inspire conservatives, and others argue that the party's campaign arm, at least in the Senate, misallocated its resources.
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., the Senate GOP campaign chief who unsuccessfully challenged Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky for the top job in the caucus Wednesday, said the problem was a lack of a fighting conservative vision.
He told colleagues that the caucus must be "far more bold and resolute than we have been in the past" to inspire Republican-leaning voters to turn out.
The GOP failed to pick up the one seat it needed to capture control of the Senate, despite a host of opportunities across the country. Democrats have clinched 50 seats, NBC News projects, with a December 6 runoff in Georgia set to determine whether they will end with 50 or 51.
And while Republicans have clinched the majority in the House, it will be a narrow one — a disappointment for the party after it expected a blowout victory.
But McConnell, who defeated Scott in a secret-ballot vote of 37-10, offered a different diagnosis: Republicans alienated and “frightened” moderate voters by failing to convey responsibility.
“We underperformed among voters who did not like President Biden’s performance — among independents and among moderate Republicans — who looked at us and concluded: too much chaos, too much negativity. And we turned off a lot of these centrist voters," McConnell said Wednesday. “We have a problem with people in the middle who still — even though there are not as many of them as there used to be — determine the outcome.”
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The long-simmering feud between Scott and McConnell, who declined to offer an agenda ahead of the 2022 elections, escalated this week into open warfare between their staffs.
Scott's advisers accused McConnell and his super PAC of not doing enough to support Republican Herschel Walker in the Georgia runoff, while McConnell's allies accused Scott of mismanaging the party's election arm.
Cassidy said Scott is misreading the dynamic in criticising McConnell for not laying out a vision of what a GOP Senate would accomplish. “He’s wrong about that,” Cassidy said. “Positions don’t come from the individual leader but from members themselves."
But Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., a Trump ally, said: "I think Sen. McConnell’s view is that Trump is largely to blame and that Republicans have an image problem because of Trump. I have to say that I don’t agree with that."
Trump said at his 2024 presidential launch Tuesday night that the problem in the midterms was that voters didn't recognise how bad things are in the country. - NBC News