With five days remaining in the midterm election cycle, Americans are hearing quite a bit from two former presidents. Barack Obama was in Arizona last night, for example, warning that Republican election deniers in the state pose a serious threat to our system of self-government.
If these GOP candidates succeed, the Democrat argued, “Democracy as we know it may not survive in Arizona.” He added, “That’s not an exaggeration. That is a fact.”
About 12 hours later, Donald Trump also shared some pre-election thoughts, appearing on a conservative outlet, where the Republican was asked about possible debt ceiling tactics in the coming months. He replied:
“It’s crazy what’s happening with this debt ceiling. Mitch McConnell keeps allowing it to happen. I mean, they ought to impeach Mitch McConnell if he allows that. Frankly, Mitch McConnell, something has to be, they have something on him.”
In other words, five days before the most important midterm election cycle in modern American history, the former president — who’s also the ostensible head of the Republican Party, and its likely 2024 presidential nominee — not only wants the GOP to hold the debt ceiling hostage, he’s also broaching the subject of impeaching his party’s Senate leader if McConnell disagrees.
To the extent that reality still has any meaning, members of Congress can’t be impeached. It’s procedurally and legally impossible. Trump might know that if he’d ever taken an interest in learning more about American civics — or if he paid closer attention after his previous calls for other lawmakers’ impeachment.
This morning’s rhetoric is also part of a striking pattern in which the former president continues to go after the Kentucky Republican in excessive ways — even going so far as to tell The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman on the record that McConnell is “a piece of s---.” Trump recently added on his Twitter-like platform that he believes McConnell “has a DEATH WISH.”
But there’s also the near future to consider: Republicans are likely to have a Senate majority after the midterm elections, and McConnell is positioned to lead the chamber’s GOP conference. Trump may be a private citizen with no formal role in the party, but he clearly wields real power and influence over the GOP’s direction.
And as things stand, the former president is making no effort to hide his seething contempt for McConnell.
In theory, so long as Senate Republicans stand by the Kentuckian, Trump’s rants will prove inconsequential. But in practice, a growing number of GOP senators and Senate candidates have hedged on whether they’ll support McConnell next year — a list that grew longer this week when Ohio’s J.D. Vance was reluctant to commit to backing the current minority leader.
Vance joined a list that also includes South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, Missouri’s Eric Schmitt, Arizona’s Blake Masters, Alaska’s Kelly Tshibaka, New Hampshire’s Don Bolduc and Pennsylvania’s Mehmet Oz.
Following up on our earlier coverage, McConnell probably isn’t too concerned. After all, no one has said they intend to run against him for the position, and he should still be seen as the favorite to lead Senate Republicans next year, whether the party is in the majority or not.
But between Trump’s offensive and McConnell’s intraparty skeptics, some meaningful GOP drama is brewing.