In an age of widespread political dissatisfaction and frustration, including within parties, Mitch McConnell has pulled off quite a feat. No, it's not the least bit surprising that he's been unanimously re-elected as majority leader by his conference; there was zero expectation of any other outcome. Indeed, no one even hinted at mounting a challenge to McConnell. In some ways, that's the achievement. His leadership has rallied his disparate caucus around him, winning admirers (both enthusiastic and grudging) from across Senate Republicans' ideological spectrum -- ranging from moderates like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to center-right conservatives, to the party's right flank. And not terribly far removed from being a deeply unpopular figure among his party's base, McConnell has seen his stoke rise with many core GOP voters. How? One word: Judges.
Starting with his handling of the Scalia vacancy in 2016, and continuing all the way up through the Kavanaugh brawl, McConnell has wisely and effectively prioritized the confirmation of conservative jurists to powerful lifetime appointments. He's stared down Democratic vilification and media criticism, playing an unflinching brand of political hardball that has forced Democrats to live by their own standards and abide by the consequences of their previous actions. Many conservative voters have pined for this style of clear-eyed leadership out of Congressional Republicans for years, and on this critical front, they've gotten it. And so, with an expanded majority, and more than two more years (at least) to keep this crucial confirmation train rolling, McConnell has been reinstalled in the role at which he has excelled:
As the new Congress approaches, McConnell took to Twitter to welcome Senate GOP newcomers into the fold, including former presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and apparent Florida victor, Rick Scott:
A warm welcome to the incoming class of Republican Senators. pic.twitter.com/yNcqWvX0qp— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) November 14, 2018
For reasons we outlined earlier this week, it is a near certainty that Scott has defeated Bill Nelson, and a source with detailed knowledge of Florida politics tells me there is "no question" about that result. McConnell has also penned an op/ed challenging Democrats about their posture over the next two years -- the thesis of which is almost certainly a least partial trollery:
Looking ahead to the coming year, there will be no shortage of opportunities to continue this impressive record of cooperation across the aisle and across the Capitol. What we can make of those opportunities will depend on our Democratic colleagues. Will they choose to go it alone and simply make political points? Or will they choose to work together and actually make a difference? ...The American people made it abundantly clear that they prefer that Congress focus on making a difference. That message may have been lost on a few House Democrats, who have made clear their preference for investigations over policy results. After years of rhetoric, it’s hardly news that some are more interested in fanning the flames of division than reaching across the aisle.
But however Democrats interpret the latest message from voters, Senate Republicans will continue our commitment to delivering results. We’ll keep working to lift the burden on American job creators and small businesses. We’ll stay focused on helping communities across the country seize new opportunities and realize greater prosperity. We’ll seek new ways to make life easier for working families. Most importantly, in the face of whichever tactics the far left chooses to employ next, we’ll continue to stand for the rule of law. We’ll continue to confirm more well-qualified nominees to serve on our nation’s courts. This is what the Senate’s Republican majority was elected to do. And we’ll continue to get it done.
Meanwhile, across the aisle, Chuck Schumer (don't ever forget his ends-driven ruthlessness) has been re-elected as minority leader. And down the hall, it doesn't look like the old guard of Democratic leadership is going to step aside without a major fight. Relatedly, newly-elected "anti-Pelosi" Democrats are dodging on the question of whether they'd actually prevent her from becoming Speaker, if push comes to shove:
For instance, Haley Stevens from MI: “I’ve said at this time Nancy Pelosi does not have my support..”— Manu Raju (@mkraju) November 14, 2018
Q: So you’re a no on floor?
“I’m waiting to see who emerges at this time, I’m not making any voting commitments but at this time I’m looking for a new generation of leadership”
Democrats had a good November, but they've got internal trouble ahead, too. By the way, if you don't get the "cocaine" reference, just read this.
UPDATE - Kevin McCarthy will be House minority leader, and there's a new female member of GOP leadership in the chamber:
House Republicans elect Kevin McCarthy as new leader, Steve Scalise as No. 2 GOP whip and Liz Cheney as conference chair. via Wapo— Andrew Malcolm (@AHMalcolm) November 14, 2018