Is this the end of Mitch McConnell’s run at the top of the Senate Republican caucus? It’s certainly not a ringing endorsement — and this time the challenge comes from the mainstream wing rather than the populists.

Coming off of a double-digit win over Val Demings, Rubio feels the wind at his back for sure:

If Rubio wanted to support McConnell, he’d push to complete the vote immediately. A delay only means more time to consider the present leadership lineup, rather than go through the usual pro forma process of endorsing it. Rubio’s move should create particular concern for McConnell and his current team as Rubio doesn’t need their fundraising influence for another few years — and has worked with Ron DeSantis well enough to ensure that his seat remains safe for the foreseeable future.

The midterm flop has plenty of authors, but Politico lifts the veil today on problems created by infighting among Senate GOP leadership. The biggest malfunction appears to have been a lack of coordination between the NRSC and the Senate Leadership Fund, and a feud between Rick Scott and McConnell that led the Democrats’ executive director of the DSCC to conclude, “They completely f****d up recruitment”:

With Arizona Democrat Sen. Mark Kelly on the brink of defeating Blake Masters, one of five liability-ridden GOP nominees, Republicans may now head into a pivotal Georgia run-off staking the last of their Senate hopes this midterm on an unproven and scandal-plagued Herschel Walker. The GOP can still win the majority if it knocks off Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), but it blew an opportunity to grab the Senate in November despite obvious political advantages.

How that happened is the story of a larger, existential struggle within the GOP. Interviews with more than 20 strategists and senators from both parties highlight the reasons for Republicans’ stumbles this year: former President Donald Trump played kingmaker, and the party reasoned it could do little about it besides trying to ride historical tailwinds.

Senate Republicans’ disinterest in further damaging their fractious relationship with the former president saddled them with losing candidates in Pennsylvania, Arizona and New Hampshire as popular governors took a pass on running. And the chip still on Scott’s shoulder from his own 2010 gubernatorial primary — where he toppled an establishment favorite — shaped the NRSC’s approach this cycle, for better or worse. …

Nonetheless, many Republicans spent the week feeling caught in a replay of 2012 and 2010, when poor GOP nominees squandered winnable races and cost them shots at the Senate. McConnell publicly warned back in August that candidate quality matters, especially in Senate races — a clear jab at the party’s recruitment. The NRSC chair conceded later they had a “strategic disagreement.”

As Matt Vespa pointed out in his VIP column today, the blame for this failure likely extends to everyone involved in it. That seems true on the merits, particularly for Scott, who seemed strangely disengaged as chair of the NRSC at times this cycle. McConnell may have correctly warned about candidate quality, but after the primaries, that issue was moot. As the top officer in the caucus and the person making decisions at the SLF, it was McConnell’s job to improve the quality and end the disconnects.

In other words, the failure is organizational — and the leadership of the organizations have to be held accountable for it. It’s all well and good to blame Donald Trump for endorsing populist MAGA candidates in races where they didn’t win in the general election, but that doesn’t alleviate Senate GOP leadership of their responsibilities either. They had an environment in which they could have easily won back the majority, perhaps even with the candidates in place, but apparently failed to come together and coordinate on a plan for victory.

Plus, Rubio likely has his eyes on the next cycle and the risks inherent in failure for 2024. The GOP has the stars aligned in two years as Democrats have to defend nine more seats than Republicans, including several red-state seats they are likely to lose — if the GOP has its act together. The opportunity costs for extending this failure into 2024 would be massive — and that’s why it’s time now to decide on leadership, strategy, and direction.

Speaking of the future of leadership, Duane Patterson and I cover some of that ground in the latest episode of The Ed Morrissey Show podcast. We focus a lot on Donald Trump’s attacks on Ron DeSantis and Glenn Youngkin, but also note the poor outcomes of the midterm cycle as well. Today’s show also features:

  • Did Donald Trump just settle the 2024 GOP presidential primary by melting down on his social media platform? Duane Patterson and I cover the attacks on Ron DeSantis and Glenn Youngkin, as well as the flux in midterm results so far.
  • Plus, we discuss the stunning and very welcome federal court ruling ending Joe Biden’s unconstitutional bailout of Academia
  • Russia’s retreat from Kherson is equally stunning. The implications of that are enormous, and Duane and I go over the next moves for Ukraine.

The Ed Morrissey Show is now a fully downloadable and streamable show at  SpotifyApple Podcaststhe TEMS Podcast YouTube channel, and on Rumble and our own in-house portal at the #TEMS page!

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