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Mitch McConnell is working a behind-the-scenes campaign to make sure Trump-backed ‘goofballs’ don’t win their primaries: report

A side-by-side image of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and former president Donald Trump.

Getty Images; Getty Images

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell has been quietly steering a campaign to recruit potential Senate candidates.
  • The New York Times reported on Sunday that it’s an effort to gain a GOP majority in the upper chamber.
  • McConnell does not want the “goofballs” backed by former President Donald Trump to win.

Sen. Mitch McConnell is trying to thwart former President Donald Trump’s efforts to shape the GOP, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

McConnell and a team of allies have, for months, been leading a behind-the-scenes campaign in which they try to recruit potential Senate candidates who could go up against Trump-backed picks. It’s an effort to gain a GOP majority in the Senate, The Times reported. 

The campaign consists of phone calls, meetings, and polling memos, the paper said. 

Even after Trump vacated office last January, lawmakers have continued to argue that he maintains a tight hold on the GOP. 

Last year, for example, Sen. Lindsey Graham said he wanted to leverage Trump’s influence to ensure that the Republican party takes back the House and Senate in 2022.

In December, Graham suggested that Trump will continue to shape the political sphere and party leaders need to find a way to work with him to avoid getting ostracized.

“If you want to be a Republican leader in the House or the Senate and you don’t have a relationship with Donald Trump, you cannot be effective. So I hope we’ll get on the same page here,” The South Carolina lawmaker said.

The Republican party can’t “grow” without him, Graham said last year.

And among Republican voters, support for Trump still remains strong. An October poll conducted by Quinnipiac University found that 78% of Republicans want to see Trump in the 2024 presidential election. That number went up from May by 12 percentage points.

McConnell, however, believes that Trump is “losing political altitude,” The Times said. 

Since leaving office, Trump has been endorsing candidates running for office across the US. At least 100 people have so far received an endorsement from him since he left the White House, Insider’s Warren Rojas and Jake Lahut reported.

Those endorsements do not sit well with McConnell, per The Times, who characterized some of his picks as “goofballs.” 

A few of McConnell’s prospects, who were not identified by The Times, declined his invitation to run for Senate. According to the report, they did not feel comfortable with the possibility of angering the former president.

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