To the surprise of few, it was recently revealed that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spent a considerable portion of his $180 million war chest to help establishment Republicans defeat America First candidates in the GOP primary elections.
McConnell’s political machine committed about $9 million to help Sen. Lisa Murkowski defeat Kelly Tshibaka in Alaska’s Republican primary, and millions more for Katie Britt against Mo Brooks in Alabama. McConnell also held back on spending money in key races, haphazardly withdrawing $5 million in New Hampshire to undermine Don Bolduc in his race against Sen. Maggie Hassan. In Arizona, he failed to support Blake Masters at a critical time against Sen. Mark Kelly.
McConnell’s sabotage of his own side in the Senate races won’t come as a surprise to most Republicans, but many are unaware that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy used similar tactics in several House races during the same period. McCarthy’s behavior is even worse than McConnell’s in light of the extremely underwhelming House election results. Although observers expected a “red wave” that would yield a strong Republican majority in the House, Republicans are likely to have just a five-vote advantage in the end.
According to The Washington Post, the political machine around McCarthy directed millions to be spent against Republican candidates in GOP primaries associated with the America First movement. Yes, you read that correctly. McCarthy surrogates, including Amazon lobbyist Jeff Miller, directed four political action committees to attack key candidates to McCarthy’s right in primary elections around the country.
Here are just a few examples: $1.7 million against Freedom Caucus member Madison Cawthorn in NC-11; $2 million in WA-3 against Joe Kent, and $2 million to prop up Kent’s primary opponent; $1.5 million spent against Carl Paladino in NY-23; $1 million against Christian Collins in TX-8; at least $1 million against Karoline Leavitt in NH-1; various amounts against J. R. Majewski in OH-9 and David Giglio in CA-13; and finally, $1.5 million against me in FL-7, a safe Republican seat, where McCarthy surrogates ran false and negative ads through “American Liberty Action PAC,” one of the four McCarthy attack PACs controlled by his surrogates. The list goes on.
It is remarkable that McCarthy’s main focus was not always on defeating Democrats, but to safeguard himself against challenges to his leadership within the GOP from incoming America First candidates. It is hard to escape the conclusion that, had these resources been spent on helping instead of undermining anti-establishment Republican candidates, the GOP would have won a stronger hold over the House.
McCarthy—like McConnell—cares more about being surrounded by Republican colleagues aligned with the establishment than winning elections for Republicans. His actions show he would rather his side lose than reflect the popular will by letting in new-right Republicans who think differently than he does about immigration, trade, war, and the managerial state.
McCarthy has emerged as worse than a mere establishment stooge: he has effectively declared war on the America First movement and has proven willing to use party resources to fight against new candidates. But he may have overplayed his hand. With the House Speaker vote just around the corner in January, McCarthy is in a precarious position as a backlash to his leadership mounts.