The “Old Crow” is scratching back a little.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) gave an understated end-of-year victory lap to former President Donald Trump, saying his foe has been “diminished” by a seemingly never-ending string of legal and political setbacks.
“Here’s what I think has changed: I think the former president’s political clout has diminished,” McConnell told NBC News.
Without naming Trump, the longtime Senate Republican leader suggested the former president’s hold on the GOP may be slipping after he contributed to the party’s underwhelming performance in the midterm elections.
McConnell and other mainstream conservatives blame Trump for selecting flawed candidates who failed to win Senate races in swing states.
“We can do a better job with less potential interference,” McConnell said.
Trump has spent much of the last two years attacking McConnell as a “old crow” and a Republican in name only who should be removed from the party’s leadership.
McConnell rarely responds. He even kept his mouth shut when Trump used racial slurs against McConnell’s Taiwanese wife, Elaine Chao.
McConnell, who will lead the Republican caucus in the Senate for at least the next two years, made no mention of Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign.
Despite their bitter feud, McConnell has refused to rule out voting for Trump if he wins the Republican nomination.
He instead focused on the Senate races that Republicans lost in Georgia, New Hampshire, and Arizona after Trump pushed for his own extremist candidates who failed to win over moderates.
“We lost critical support among independents and moderate Republicans,” McConnell said. “[It was] primarily related to the former president’s view of us as a party, which was that we were nasty and prone to chaos.”
McConnell did not address Trump’s numerous legal issues, which were exacerbated this week when a congressional committee referred him for possible criminal prosecution on January 6.
He claimed that the “entire nation knows” Trump was to blame for the January 6 incident. However, critics say McConnell let Trump off the hook by failing to press for his conviction in an impeachment trial, which would have barred him from ever holding office again.