Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been a thorn in the side of conservatism for years now. He has actively fought conservatives in his chamber and his minions have fought conservatives from getting elected. He wields an impressive amount of power for a guy who basically runs one-half of one of the three branches of government.
But how much does McConnell have left in the tank?
He’s been in the Senate since 1984, and has been a centrist for most of his career. He talks a conservative game, but at the end of the day, McConnell will always take the moderate route. However, that is something that has become increasingly more difficult since Barack Obama took office.
Right now, McConnell is one of the three most powerful Republicans in Washington D.C., along with Paul Ryan and Donald Trump. However, Ryan has a legislative agenda. Trump has an executive agenda. What, exactly, does McConnell have? Not much, it seems.
The agendas of his two counterparts have stalled in the Senate. Trump called for getting rid of Obamacare, and Ryan’s chamber passed it. McConnell could not get it done on his side, despite the fact that people say he wields a ton of influence. He has been unable to press ahead on anything he and his members have vowed to do since Obama was president.
Conservatives hate him, and moderates are starting to whisper that he’s losing his touch.
He is up for re-election in 2020, and he has been losing supporters in the Senate for a while now. It is almost impossible to guess what the Senate will look like by that time, but it is increasingly likely that it won’t look the way he wants it to. That leaves him with two options going forward at that point.
The first option is to start acting conservative and to have an actual legislative agenda to match. That will be tough for a moderate/centrist like McConnell, but it could be done.
The second option is to double-down and hope that the people who remain in the Senate are still loyal enough to him that they vote with him. This is even tougher, because like the Democrats, the Republicans have a base that is motivated to upend the Washington establishment, of which he is a member.
There is another option open to him, however: He can decide not to run again and live his days in retirement. Or as a lobbyist.
I don’t see McConnell quitting right now, but I would not be surprised to find out the thought has been crossing his mind more and more in the era Donald Trump.