On the heels of former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s primary victory Tuesday, President of the Senate Conservatives Fund Ken Cuccinelli says Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his leadership team are in “extraordinary danger” of losing their positions.
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The victory in Alabama delivered a blow to President Donald Trump and McConnell, who both backed the incumbent, Sen. Luther Strange. Moore will now face Democratic nominee Doug Jones in the general election on Dec. 12. Cuccinelli says the primary win should rattle other Republican senators and calls McConnell “an albatross around their neck."
“I don’t think you have to wait for the midterms for Mitch McConnell to worry about his job,” Cuccinelli told ABC News’ Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl on the “Powerhouse Politics” podcast. Cuccinelli points to McConnell’s comments last month to a Kentucky Rotary Club when he called Trump’s expectations of the legislative process “excessive”.
Cuccinelli said McConnell was revealing his own “surrender attitude:" “He just thought it was a statement of fact: ‘Well, you can’t really expect us to do these things we’ve been saying we’d do for all these years and to have a plan for how to do this after seven years.’”
GOP primary upsets ahead?
Cuccinelli said vulnerable Republicans up for re-election include Senator Roger Wicker in Mississippi, Sen. Jeff Flake in Arizona, and Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada.
“You’ve already seen Bob Corker quit, rather than face the wrath of his own grassroots,” Cuccinelli said.
Sen. Corker, R-Tenn. announced Tuesday that he would not be running for re-election. While Cuccinelli welcomed that news, and wants to force more incumbents out of office, Republicans more aligned with the establishment warn that this could cost the GOP seats.
“We are having some growing pains right now,” former RNC Spokesman Doug Heye told “Powerhouse Politics.” “What we’ve seen is that the louder and angrier voices win, but I would caution some of my conservative brethren that we’ve been there before, and we’ve seen the negative impacts.”
Heye points to the 2010 Senate elections, where GOP primary challengers weren’t viable candidates in the general election and Democrats capitalized.
“This is why we have Chris Coons in the Senate from Delaware, instead of Christine O’Donnell or Mike Castle,” Heye said. “This is why Claire McCaskill is in the Senate, and Todd Aiken is not. This is why we have Joe Donnelly in the Senate instead of Richard Murdoch or Dick Lugar.”
Despite a favorable Senate map for Republicans in 2018, Heye warned that “if we challenge these incumbents who really haven’t committed any fireable offense, we run the risk of shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Cuccinelli disagreed. “Some people say, ‘Oh gosh -- never fight amongst yourselves.' That’s going to be absolutely critical. if they’re serious about repealing Obamacare, that’s not going to happen with the current team. You’ve got to change the team,” said Cuccinelli.
Alabama's December decision
The Senate seat in Alabama was held for 20 years by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, before he joined the Trump administration. Though there hasn’t been a Democratic senator in Alabama since 1997, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) sees an opportunity after the bitter Republican primary.
Democratic nominee and former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones was the lead prosecutor in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing case that killed four African-American girls. Vice President Joe Biden is expected to hold a rally for Jones on Oct. 3.
Moore has long been a controversial figure in the state, most notably for refusing to remove a marble monument of the Ten Commandments that he installed outside the state Supreme Court in 2001, leading to his removal from office in 2003. He was later re-elected, then suspended in May 2016 after ordering judges to ignore the 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriages.
“He is clearly biblical, you might even say an old-testament type of guy,” said Cuccinelli. “I don’t think it should be all that shocking that a candidate like that is entirely viable as a senator from Alabama. Alabama ain’t New York.”
Heye says even with a controversial Republican candidate, it will be difficult for Democrats to pull off a win in Alabama. “But,” Heye added, “The fact that we’re even talking about it suggests a problem...a larger, national problem.”