A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Bill Straub: Now that the election is over and R’s lost opportunities, let the games begin in earnest

The election is over. Let the recriminations begin!

What say we start with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, generally viewed as the legislator least likely to win a popularity contest among his colleagues, edging out Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, the near wholly owned subsidiary of billionaire Ted Yass, for that distinction.

Poor Ted Cruz is so “pissed off” about the Election Day results, which found Republicans failing to live up to the “red wave” they had been predicting for weeks on end, that he “cannot even see straight.”

“We had an extraordinary opportunity,” Cruz fumed during a recent podcast. “We had a generational opportunity. This should have been a fundamental landslide election. We should have won the House and the Senate. We should have a 30, 40, 50 vote majority in the House. We should have 53, 54, 55 Republicans in the Senate.”

The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com

Instead, the GOP failed to claim a Senate majority and grabbed the House by the skin of its collective teeth, resulting in howls of pain across the fruited plain.
And the object of Cruz’s contempt? That son of the Bluegrass, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, of Louisville, who may have just seen his final opportunity to serve as the head of the majority in the upper chamber slip away.

Cruz charged that McConnell pulled resources from the “winnable’’ Republican campaign of Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters and dispersed it God knows where else.

Why, exactly, did Mitch do such a rotten thing?

“Because Masters said he would vote against Mitch McConnell (as Senate Republican leader) and so Mitch would rather be leader than have a Republican majority,” Cruz said. “If there’s a Republican who can win, who’s not gonna support Mitch, the truth of the matter is he’d rather the Democrat win. So he pulled all the money out of Arizona.”

That’s a ridiculous claim, even from the likes of Ted Cruz – McConnell announced early on that he had the votes to retain his leadership post, Masters or no Masters. Besides, according to the New York Times, Steven Law, who heads McConnell’s super PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, said that Masters had scored the worst among focus group of any candidate he had ever seen, thus concluding the PAC might want to go throwing its cash around elsewhere.

Add the fact that Masters is, to steal a quote from another Arizonan, the late Sen. John McCain, a “whackobird” of the first order and you can understand McConnell’s lack of enthusiasm.

Truth be told, while he was partially responsible for the disappointing Republican showing on Nov. 8, McConnell finishes down the list of those who should be held accountable. At the top of the order are two Florida men.

Leading off is Sen. Rick Scott, R-FL, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who recruited a list of absurd candidates, wasted millions of dollars, agreed that the outcome was a “complete disappointment,” blamed McConnell and then challenged him for the role of Senate Republican leader, losing in embarrassing fashion, 37-10-1.

Scott and McConnell have been at loggerheads for some time. Scott chose to stay out of Republican primary contests, concentrating on assisting the winners during their general election campaigns. McConnell wanted the committee to steer Republican primary voters toward candidates who had the best opportunity to win in November.

Score one for Mitch.

The primaries burdened the GOP with sad sack candidates in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, the aforementioned Arizona and possibly Georgia, depending on the results in a run-off in a few weeks. McConnell suggested early on that “candidate quality” might keep the GOP from gaining the majority he so coveted. Surveying the burnt field after Election Day, he noted, “It’s pretty obvious what happened, we under-performed among independent and moderate voters because their impression of many of the people in our party and in leadership roles is that they’re involved in chaos, negativity, excessive attacks, and it frightened independent and moderate Republican voters.”

The two men also brawled on strategy, with Scott looking to provide GOP candidates with a positive agenda they could run on while McConnell demurred, seeking to keep the focus on the shortcomings of the Democratic administration under President Biden. Scott’s point here is well-taken. McConnell has always had a tendency as a politician to run against, as opposed to for, someone or something, blocking legislation, for instance, rather than championing an initiative. With that in mind he has in the past balked at offering up positions, fearing the Democrats would use that resource as a weapon turned on his party.

The GOP candidates could have benefitted from a positive platform to run on but not the one Scott provided, which included potential threats to Social Security and Medicare, plus a tax increase on low and middle income wage earners. Take all that, and questionable spending practices that have led some to call for an audit, and you can understand why Republicans underperformed.

Frankly, it’s amazing that Scott, now exposed as a boob, was in a position to affect the future of the Senate in the first place. His popularity with Florida voters, who have twice elected him as governor before dispatching him to the Senate, is one of the wonders of the world. This is the dude who was pressured in 1997 to resign as chairman and CEO of Columbia/HCA in wake of an FBI and IRS investigation that ultimately led to the company pleading guilty to 14 felonies resulting in more than $600 million in fines, at the time the largest health care fraud settlement in the nation’s history.

It was established that Columbia/HCA under Scott’s leadership overcharged the government by seeking phony reimbursements, entered into illegal deals with home care agencies and fraudulently billed Medicare and other health programs. In a deposition, Scott asserted his Fifth Amendment rights 75 times.

This is the guy the Sunshine State sent to represent them in Washington. The Democrats couldn’t find anyone to beat this schmuck?

Then there’s the other Florida dude, fellow named Trump from some joint called Mar-a-Lago, who used his considerable influence within the party to swing nominations to candidates he favored, those of the far right who agreed with his assessment that the 2020 presidential election, which denied him a second term, was rigged.

They flopped. Masters, Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, Donald Bolduc in New Hampshire, Adam Laxalt in Nevada, and perhaps Herschel Walker in Georgia all lost. A lot of that had to do with their association with the Florida man, who is gaining a reputation as poison for a political campaign because of his boorish antics, corrupt practices during his four years in the White House and contempt for all that’s holy.

Of course, rather than look in the mirror, a difficult task under the best of circumstances, the Florida man blamed McConnell for the party’s lackluster showing. He then declared himself a candidate for the presidency in 2024.

“It’s Mitch McConnell’s fault,” he whined on his social media outlet, Truth Social. “Spending money to defeat great Republican candidates instead of backing Blake Masters and others was a big mistake.”

“He blew the Midterms, and everyone despises him and his otherwise lovely wife, Coco Chow!” Trump said, tossing in a gratuitous, racist swipe at McConnell’s wife, Taiwanese-American Elaine Chao, for good measure.

At this point it should be acknowledged that McConnell has a certain ownership of the Election Day disappointment. Mitch had not one but two opportunities to try and impeach Trump. He passed both times, failing to take the bat off his shoulder on either occasion. He excoriated the Orange Ogre in wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection Trump enflamed, but then voted against impeachment and even blocked the appointment of a blue-ribbon panel to investigate the whole mess.

Now Trump is back and Mitch is standing on the sidelines with his hands in his pockets.

The Republican outcome isn’t as bad as advertised – the party grabbed the House as expected and came close in the Senate, which was always something of 50-50 proposition. But that apparently won’t stop the gang from tearing themselves apart.

Let the fun begin.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment