Former President Donald Trump is continuing verbal attacks on Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in preparations of again running for the nation's highest office, GOP strategists said.
The former president's criticism of the Senate minority leader is a way for Trump to show his base that he remains a Washington outsider despite four years in the White House, and that the Republican establishment isn't entirely in sync with his "America First" brand of conservative populism.
"It's the clearest sign he's running for president," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told The Hill.
Unlike Trump, McConnell symbolizes Washington's GOP establishment. The leader was one of 19 Senate Republicans who voted for President Joe Biden's $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure legislation.
"Why is it that Old Crow Mitch McConnell voted for a terrible Democrat Socialist Infrastructure Plan, and induced others in his Party to do likewise, when he was incapable of getting a great Infrastructure Plan wanting to be put forward by me and the Republican Party?" Trump said in a statement on Tuesday.
Trump ally, American Majority Founder, and CEO Ned Ryun told The Hill that Trump is speaking out against McConnell "to see if we can get real America First leadership in the Senate."
"Is it him trying to agitate to see how far people are willing to go to say, 'We want America First leadership or better leadership than Mitch McConnell that is more reflective of the base?'" Ryan told The Hill. "Yeah, I can see where Trump is trying to nudge them in that direction."
Saying that McConnell never has been a favorite of the conservative base, Ryun added that Senate GOP primary candidates also are thinking about trying to make the leader an issue in their races.
Eric Greitens, running for Senate in Missouri, already has said that he won’t support McConnell for another term as leader.
"I would not be surprised if people in Arizona, Ohio and other key Senate races come out and say that," Ryun told The Hill.
Besides his attacks on McConnell, Trump has signaled an interest in running in 2024 in other ways. He has been issuing statements almost daily on current issues and publicly endorsing candidates for next year’s midterm elections. He also has backed the Make America Great Again Action super PAC, which held its first fundraising event at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
"He's not going anywhere," Ryun told The Hill. "He just raised however much money he raised in his super PAC. He’s not doing that to play tiddlywinks. Get ready for Trump 2024."
A senior Senate Republican aide told The Hill that GOP senators still support McConnell.
"With his members, it has zero effect," the source said of Trump's attacks.
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