Mitch McConnell says the 2022 midterms should be about BIDEN and not a 'rehash of the 2020 election' in a rebuke to Trump
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell wants the upcoming midterm elections to focus on what President Joe Biden is doing now rather than what Donald Trump has done in the past, he told reporters on Monday.
The Kentucky lawmaker was asked how he feels about Trump's enduring dominance within the Republican party going into the 2022 election cycle during a Senate GOP press conference.
'Are you concerned at all, comfortable, with your party embracing the former president whom you said was morally responsible for the January 6 attack?' CNN's Manu Raju asked.
McConnell skirted over the Capitol attack to say he wants 2022 to be a 'referendum' on the Biden administration rather than a 'rehash of suggestions' from 2020.
'I do think we need to be talking about the future and not the past. I think the American people are focusing on this administration, what it's doing to the country,' McConnell replied.
'And it's my hope that the 2022 election will be a referendum on the performance of the current administration, not a rehash of suggestions about what may have happened in 2020.'
The 'suggestions' McConnell seemed to be referring to were accusations that Trump incited his supporters to storm the US Capitol on January 6, when the Senate was set to certify Biden's electoral college victory.
Those accusations led to condemnation from a number of Republican lawmakers in the immediate aftermath of the riot, including many who have since walked back their initial anger.
McConnell was one of those who criticized Trump, declaring on the Senate floor in February that Trump was 'practically and morally responsible' for the attack.
However he also voted against convicting him following the House's second impeachment of the GOP leader.
When asked earlier this year about Trump's criticism of his leadership, McConnell tool a similarly dismissive tone and brushed it off by saying he was 'focused entirely on the present and the future not the past.'
Trump's increasingly frequent campaign activity has proved he's still widely in-demand for GOP endorsements, however, despite having lost in 2020 in an election that also cost his party control of Congress.
Just last week he held a campaign rally in Iowa where he endorsed longtime Senator Chuck Grassley.
While there he fueled 2024 presidential rumors because of Iowa's historic importance on the White House campaign trail.
He also spoke at a high-dollar donor retreat in Palm Beach, Florida sponsored by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a group aimed at getting more Republicans elected to the Senate.
'It was a dying party, I’ll be honest. Now we have a very lively party,' he told the audience.
He went after some of his fellow Republicans as well, venturing to attack GOP senators at an event promoting their party's re-election.
Trump name-checked Utah Senator Mitt Romney and Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, two of of the seven GOP senators who voted to impeach him after the Capitol riot.
McConnell may also be desperate to downplay a kingmaker who's asking his own fans not to support the party that got him elected.
Last week Trump released a statement telling Republicans not to vote in the upcoming elections unless his baseless election fraud claims were solved - but didn't elaborate on how that would happen.
'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. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do,' Trump had said.
Focusing on Biden appears to be a much easier pathway to support for Republicans.
The president has been grappling with approval numbers lower than that of any Democratic president at the same point in his term since Harry Truman, save for a few points where Bill Clinton was level with or surpassed him.
Poll aggregator FiveThirtyEight currently has Biden's approval rating at 44.1 percent while his disapproval hovers just above 49 percent.
The Biden White House has also been under ethical scrutiny recently over a campaign ad featuring Vice President Kamala Harris appearing in Virginia churches, and accusations that White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki violated the Hatch Act and lobbied for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe.
On top of that he's been dealing with the fallout from an increasingly dire border crisis and his chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, which has been criticized by both sides of the aisle.
Biden's current unpopularity forced McAuliffe to distance himself from the Democratic president ahead of next month's election in Virginia.
The race between former Governor McAuliffe and Trump-backed businessman Glenn Youngkin is widely seen as a bellwether for what's to come in 2022.
'We've got to get Democrats out to vote,' McAuliffe said in a 12-second video clip of a teleconference earlier this month. 'We are facing a lot of headwinds from Washington, as you know.'
'The president is unpopular today unfortunately here in Virginia so we have got to plow through.'