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McConnell called Trump 'a fading brand … off-the-track Thoroughbred,' book says

David Catanese, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell believes the Republican Party is moving away from Trumpism and views the former president as a weight on his chances of reclaiming the majority next year.

That’s according to “Peril,” the new book by legendary journalist Bob Woodward and veteran reporter Robert Costa.

The book quotes McConnell calling former President Donald Trump, “a fading brand. Retired. OTTB as they say in Kentucky — off-the-track Thoroughbred.”

“There is a clear trend moving,” McConnell said, toward a place where the GOP is not dominated by Trump. McConnell added, “Sucking up to Donald Trump is not a strategy that works.”

If that’s true, it’s not advice being heeded by many Republican candidates who are thus far largely embracing Trumpism and defending the former president at every turn.

McConnell’s antipathy toward Trump has been thoroughly documented before. This is just a more vivid portrait of the Kentuckian’s private musings to South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a top Trump ally, during last winter.

Whereas Graham has argued for a approach of keeping Trump at the center of the GOP’s 2022 strategy, McConnell is portrayed as wanting to move as far away from him as possible.

That may be impossible, depending on Trump’s willingness to plot and organize for his preferred candidates next year — which would require a level of discipline and focus he’s yet to exhibit.

Ever the cold-blooded strategist, McConnell, according to Woodward and Costa, appears to believe he can beat Trump’s “ragtag network,” if one were to ever even come together.

 

“The only place I can see Trump and me actually at loggerheads would be if he gets behind some clown who clearly can’t win,” McConnell is quoted saying in the book. “To have a chance of getting the Senate back, you have to have the most electable candidates possible.”

A McConnell spokesperson did not address an inquiry to verify the reported remarks on the record.

In a 50-50 Senate, every seat will be a majority maker, with neither party having any room for error.

Republicans see their top opportunities for flipping seats in New Hampshire, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada. But they’ll also be on defense in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Ohio.

Even as Democrats try to use McConnell as a cudgel against Republican Senate candidates, the GOP leader is dismissive.

“I’m not enough of a villain,” McConnell is quoted saying.

Both Democrats and Trump may attempt to prove him wrong.

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©2021 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Visit mcclatchydc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.