Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
Updated 11:01 AM ET, Wed October 20, 2021
(CNN)Mitch McConnell’s entire being is — and always has been — focused on winning elections. Every move he makes and every thing he says is part of a broader effort to ensure that his side winds up with more seats — and therefore more control — than the other guys.And, on Tuesday, McConnell made clear that he believes former President Donald Trump’s ongoing focus on the 2020 election is decidedly detrimental to the GOP’s chances in the upcoming midterm elections.Asked by CNN’s Manu Raju whether he was comfortable with candidates embracing Trump, McConnell said this:
“I do think we need to be thinking about the future and not the past. I think the American people are focusing on this administration, what it’s doing to the country, and it’s my hope the ’22 election will be a referendum on the performance of the current administration, not a rehash of suggestions about what may have happened in 2020.”
That’s about as close as McConnell will get to outright refutation of Trump and the strategy, such as it is, that the former president is peddling — a hard focus on trying to prove (nonexistent) voter fraud in the 2020 election.
While Trump’s continued attempts to re-litigate the 2020 election have been ongoing for months, that effort went to another level in the last week when Trump suggested that unless the last election was overturned, future elections would be pointless. “If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in ’22 or ’24,” Trump said in a statement via his Save America PAC. “It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do.”
That statement brought back bad memories for Republicans who lost not one but two Senate seats in Georgia earlier this year as Trump (and several of his closest allies) were focused almost entirely on the 2020 election — to the detriment of those two runoffs which turned McConnell from Senate majority leader to Senate minority leader.
Given that — and Trump’s continued popularity among the base of the party — it is no simple thing for McConnell to wrench the GOP and its candidates toward a focus on the future rather than staying mired in the past.Much depends on Trump and his whims. And if past is prologue, that’s bad news for McConnell.