Even with bad approval ratings, the nation’s top four Democratic leaders are more popular than Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
According to an aggregate of polls maintained by RealClearPolitics, just 24 percent of Americans view McConnell favorably, compared to 59 percent who say otherwise for a net negative of 35 percent. McConnell’s Democratic counterpart in the upper chamber, Sen. Chuck Schumer, enjoys a 32 percent favorability rating, while Nancy Pelosi’s stands at 34 percent, Vice President Kamala Harris at 40 percent, and President Joe Biden at 43 percent.
The low ratings signal a challenge for McConnell in the GOP leader’s effort to maintain control of the Republican conference beyond next year’s midterms. With one seat needing to flip in a hostile year for Democrats, Republicans hold the advantage to reclaim a Senate majority. The season’s primary battles, however, showcase McConnell’s simmering unpopularity in a changing Republican Party outside the Beltway.
On Monday, Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s primary challenger, Kelly Tshibaka, endorsed by the state party, pledged to oppose McConnell’s re-election as Senate leader.
“Mitch McConnell has repeatedly bailed out Joe Biden, giving him gifts of Senate votes, which are the only things keeping the Biden administration on life support,” said the Trump-endorsed Senate candidate on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast.
While McConnell’s brokering with Democrats on major issues has undermined the leader’s grip on power among some in the political class, it’s whether the Kentucky senator can represent a changing party that will determine his suitability for leadership.
Last week, syndicated columnist Josh Hammer outlined how the Republican Party transformed over the Trump years into a multi-ethnic working-class party, pointing to a poll in The Wall Street Journal highlighting Hispanics, in particular, split 37 to 37 percent on the generic ballot.
“If the trendlines continue, the Democratic Party could end up as a parochial regional party with extremely limited statewide appeal outside the Northeast and West Coast,” Hammer wrote, but he warned that no trends are guaranteed to continue. “The onus is now on Republican leaders to ensure the party’s new coalitional inroads are nurtured, not squandered.”
The changes in the makeup of the party’s coalition did not come by accident but instead came by Republicans engaging with voters on cultural issues with Trump at the helm.
As Democrats overplayed their hands on identity politics, embracing the divisive tenets of critical race theory along with the adoption of radical gender ideology, alienated voters who have become disillusioned with the left’s toxic obsession with skin color and victimhood have opened the door for Republicans to grow their base. Now McConnell has to meet the moment.
As Hispanic voters continue to expand as a larger bloc of the nonwhite voting population, a population Democrats depend on to win future elections, Republicans would be wise to remain aggressive on issues that keep closing the gap. That means representation from congressional leadership serving as working-class champions.
“The median voter is culturally commonsensical (respecting the flag, saluting the troops, appreciating the police) and economically pragmatic,” Hammer wrote. “The Republican Party has a golden opportunity to attract and maintain the support of that crucial bloc. It must not blow it.”