Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is working hard to maintain a conference he can control after the midterms rather than a GOP majority in the upper chamber.
On Friday, McConnell’s super PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund (SLF), pulled $5.6 million from New Hampshire’s Republican Senate candidate Don Bolduc. The cash withdrawal came two days after Bolduc gave an interview with Politico, maintaining his opposition to McConnell for another term in leadership.
“I have said no to that question, and I’m not backing off,” Bolduc told the magazine about the prospect of voting for McConnell.
The question was presented after McConnell’s super PAC had pledged a $23 million investment in the toss-up Senate race against Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan. But Bolduc, whom the Washington establishment opposed during the Republican primary, refused to kiss the ring of the incumbent minority leader. His campaign will now pay nearly $6 million for it in canceled spending from McConnell.
The decision to withdraw scarce resources from a prime opportunity for a Senate pick-up is just the latest episode of McConnell sabotaging candidates who threaten his leadership perch. McConnell’s allies can’t claim that the move to cancel spending was provoked by Bolduc being a flailing candidate, either. Two polls conducted prior to the SLF announcement last week show Bolduc within the margin of error to oust the sitting Democratic senator. And that’s without even taking into account that polls are notoriously crafted by the left to manipulate rather than reflect public opinion.
According to a poll out Monday from Emerson College and WHDH 7 News, a local television station in Boston, Hassan led Bolduc by 2 points in the survey with a 4 percent margin of error. That poll was conducted Oct. 18-19. Another survey from Republican pollster Fabrezio, Lee and Associates out Friday morning also showed the Democrat senator leading Bolduc by 2 points with another 4 percent margin of error.
While the survey from Emerson College was not published until Monday, the poll from Fabrezio, Lee and Associates came out last week. The Senate Leadership Fund did not respond to The Federalist’s repeated inquiries about whether the group had examined the survey results before making the decision to axe $5.6 million from the competitive Senate contest.
Bolduc is by no means the only Republican Senate candidate this year to be sabotaged by McConnell for refusing to back him as leader. In Arizona, Republican venture capitalist Blake Masters was stripped of $18 million from McConnell’s PAC while running against Democrat Sen. Mark Kelly. During the Republican Senate primary, Masters also pledged not to back McConnell for leadership.
According to RealClearPolitics’ latest aggregate of polls, Masters is within 3 points of defeating the incumbent lawmaker.
While pulling resources from pick-up opportunities in Arizona and New Hampshire, McConnell is redistributing cash to support his preferred candidate in a contest between two Republicans. In Alaska, McConnell has spent more than $5 million to defend incumbent Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski in her face-off with challenger Kelly Tshibaka, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump and the state GOP. The Alaskan media market is relatively inexpensive, which means $5 million can go a long way against Tshibaka, who has also said she would oppose McConnell for conference leader next year. Alaska’s new ranked-choice voting scheme this year, put in place by Murkowski to avoid a Republican primary, gives the incumbent lawmaker an edge by relying on Democrat voters. The latest polling, however, shows a dead heat in the contest through the final round of ballot tabulation.
The Alaska Republican Party voted overwhelmingly to censure McConnell over the weekend for meddling in the state contest against the GOP-endorsed candidate.
National Republican Senate Committee (NRSC) Chairman Rick Scott, R-Fla., has jumped in to support competitive candidates abandoned by McConnell. In Arizona, the NRSC has spent nearly $10 million to support Masters, more than any other candidate this election cycle, according to OpenSecrets. The group has also spent nearly $3 million backing Bolduc in New Hampshire. Axios reported Tuesday that the NRSC is planning to put even more behind Bolduc after McConnell began to pull out less than three weeks from Election Day.
“Our polling, along with recent public polling, shows that this race is in the margin of error and winnable,” Scott told Axios. “The NRSC is proud to stand with General Bolduc. We’re going to win this race so Don Bolduc can bring real leadership back to this Senate seat.”
Scott previously clashed with McConnell in September after the Republican minority leader sought to undermine GOP chances with complaints about “candidate quality.”
“I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate,” McConnell said on Fox News in August. “Senate races are just different, they’re statewide, candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome.”
Scott fired back with an op-ed in the Washington Examiner on the first of September.
“Ultimately, though, when you complain and lament that we have ‘bad candidates,’ what you are really saying is that you have contempt for the voters who chose them,” Scott wrote. “Do I wish they had more money than their Democratic opponent? Of course. But we have great candidates, chosen by the voters in their states, and our job is to help each one of them win.”
According to RealClearPolitics’ aggregate of approval surveys, McConnell remains the least popular Republican in Washington leadership, with a favorability rating below President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.