With polls showing the wind at Republicans' backs, and with Democrats holding onto barely existent majorities in both chambers on Capitol Hill, folks like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have reason to be optimistic about the 2022 midterms. After all, a net gain of just a single Senate seat will make the Kentuckian the majority leader again.
But before he starts preparing to change offices, it's worth noting that some of the Republicans running for the Senate next year say they have no intention of supporting McConnell in 2023. NBC News reported late yesterday:
A Republican running with former President Donald Trump's support to unseat Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Monday that she would not vote for Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for another term as the Senate's GOP leader.... "When I defeat Murkowski and become Alaska's next U.S. senator, I will not support Mitch McConnell as leader," [Kelly Tshibaka said in a written statement]. "It's time for new, America First leadership in the Senate."
The "America First" reference was not accidental: Tshibaka is backed by Donald Trump, who's repeatedly vowed to defeat Murkowski for failing to show him sufficient loyalty.
In all likelihood, McConnell didn't respond to her statement with any real concern, in part because Murkowski is still favored to win re-election, and in part because he doesn't have any real rivals in the Senate GOP conference.
But it's worth noting for context that the far-right Alaskan isn't alone in adopting an anti-McConnell position. Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, another Republican Senate hopeful in 2022, also said a few months ago that he wouldn't support McConnell, either.
The Washington Post found a handful of other GOP candidates — including Rep. Mo Brooks, the Trump-backed candidate in Alabama — who were noncommittal, refusing to say whether they'd back McConnell or not.
In theory, this could prove to be trivial, especially if far-right candidates balking at McConnell come up short in primaries or in general elections. What's more, there have been similar intra-party disputes in Democratic politics that didn't amount to much: Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema, for example, said she wouldn't support New York's Chuck Schumer for Democratic leader, which proved inconsequential when he ran unopposed.
But it's not as if Barack Obama was actively involved in a campaign to destroy Schumer. Trump, on the other hand, has launched an anti-McConnell campaign and appears determined to oust him from his leadership post.
For now, two candidates announcing their opposition to the Senate GOP leader doesn't have much of an impact on the partisan landscape. But don't be surprised if the former president tries to secure related commitments from other candidates, which might start to make a difference in 2022.