Former President Donald Trump on Thursday strengthened his grip on the Senate GOP caucus with an endorsement for a loyal senator, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lost support from a member of his caucus, the latest sign that, even after his Senate impeachment trial, Trump holds more sway over the party than other Republican leaders.
It may be a moot point, however, as Johnson – the only Republican statewide official in Wisconsin – has not yet decided whether to run for reelection in 2022, noting to CNN that he’s “target number one” and “people are out to destroy me.”
Also on Thursday, Trump handed down an endorsement to Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), another firm Trump backer and one of just a handful of senators who voted to uphold objections to President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.
Trump called Kennedy – who recently apologized for referring to Interior Secretary nominee Deb Haaland as a “neo-socialist, left-of-Lenin whackjob” – a “spectacular Senator and person” who “stands strongly with the forgotten men and women of our Country.”
Trump has only endorsed Senate incumbents so far, throwing his backing behind Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), both of whom voted against Electoral College objections but also to acquit Trump of inciting the Jan. 6 attack.
On the House side, Trump has already begun backing insurgents. His first endorsement for the lower chamber was to former Trump campaign and White House aide Max Miller, who is challenging Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in January.
Despite Trump slamming McConnell as a “dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack” and claiming credit for his reelection in November, McConnell said he would “absolutely” support Trump if he was the GOP nominee in 2024.
McConnell, 79, has reportedly begun planning for the possibility he won’t serve out the remainder of his six-year term. He has created a list of potential Republican successors if the Kentucky legislature passes a law requiring the state’s Democratic governor to appoint a Republican to replace McConnell, according to The Intercept. That list includes Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and former U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft.